New COVID-19 Infections in Polk Decline to Lowest Levels Since Pandemic’s Early Weeks

Two months after the omicron variant of COVID-19 peaked in Polk County, the rate of new infections has plunged to its lowest level since the early months of the pandemic, according to the latest weekly report from the Florida Department of Health. The testing positivity rate last week was the lowest reported ever.

There were 256 new cases in Polk reported during the week of July 4-10, according to the report. The number has not been that low since early June 2020, about 2 1/2 months after the first cases were recorded locally.

Average testing positivity for last week was reported at 2.2%, a record low. The previous weekly low was 2.7% early last December before the omicron variant brought rates that peaked at a record 33.8% a month later.

Local government and health officials have targeted a sustained testing rate of below 5% as a sign that community spread of the virus has subsided. The reported positivity rate accounts for testing of new cases reported to the Florida Department of Health and does not include the results of home testing.

Polk’s testing positivity reflects a downward trend throughout Florida, where the statewide rate was 2.4% last week.

Cases per 100,000 population in Polk were lower than the statewide rate at 35.6 locally compared with 46.8 for all of Florida.

Polk’s “Community Level” of COVID-19 is rated as medium by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on its new high-medium-low metric. At that level, the CDC no longer recommends that people wear masks indoors in public places.

In a separate tracking of “Community Transmission,” the CDC this week started reporting Polk’s level as “moderate.” Polk’s level was rated as “high” during the omicron variant and was reduced to “substantial” on Feb. 25 before getting the “moderate” designation Thursday.

The CDC’s COVID tracker reflects 41 deaths in Polk last week the same level as the previous week.