The number of new COVID-19 infections in Polk County dropped for a fifth straight week to 1,455 new cases, nearly the same level as the second week of July, a period when the delta-fueled surge was just starting its rapid ascent.

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The fall has been even faster than the rise, which took six weeks to reach the peak of 7,510 new infections Aug. 20-26.

The proportion of tests coming back positive has fallen for a sixth week, coming in at 8.6%, according to the update for the week of Sept. 24-30 released Friday evening by the Florida Department of Health.

This week marks the first week since early July that the positivity rate has been below the 10% mark government officials consider a sign of slower community spread.

Statewide, 37,772 new infections were reported, also reflecting a decrease for five weeks in a row.

Here is how Polk compares with statewide averages in several key areas:

  • Testing positivity: Polk, 8.6%; Florida, 6.5%
  • Cases per 100,000 population: Polk, 202.2; Florida, 171.9
  • Overall case positivity: Polk, 26.2%; Florida, 21.3% (unchanged from last week)
  • Vaccinations – Age 12+ residents receiving at least one dose of vaccine: Polk, 64%; Florida, 71% (also unchanged from last week)

In the last week,  2,460 vaccination shots were given to Polk County residents, representing the lowest weekly count since the vaccines were made available to all adults in April. Many of those were repeat shots, as third-shot boosters were made easily available to seniors and immunocompromised people starting last weekend.

In all, 125,879 infections have been reported in Polk County since March 2020, according to the DOH. Statewide, there have been 3,576,571 cases.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 55,299 deaths in Florida have been attributed to COVID-19, an increase of 1,719 deaths from the previous week’s report.

Polk County has experienced 73 COVID-related deaths in the last seven days, according to CDC records.


For the first time in at least a month, the number of COVID-19 patients at Lakeland Regional Health (177 on Wednesday afternoon) is below the hospital’s peak of 180 during last winter’s surge. Numbers of COVID patients in ICU and on ventilators are coming down but still above the levels at the start of September. 

Out of the 177 COVID patients at the hospital on Wednesday, 85.5% were unvaccinated.

On Wednesday, there were 32 COVID patients in ICU, down from 45 a week earlier. Of those, 96.9% were unvaccinated. There were 25 COVID patients on ventilators, down from 39 a week earlier. Of those, 96% were unvaccinated.

This week’s state report

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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