Polk Again Sets New Highs for COVID Cases, Test Positivity

LkldNow’s COVID-19 chart, below, illustrates the virus’ trajectory in Polk County far more dramatically than our words can. This week’s 5,703 new cases is the highest weekly number yet, and Polk’s average positivity rate of 26.3 for the past week is also a record.

The chart is based on weekly data released Friday by the Florida Department of Health. What the chart doesn’t show is:

  • Lakeland Regional Health this week has more patients than ever who tested positive for COVID-19. The hospital reported 275 such patients on Thursday, nearly 100 more than their peak daily number during last January’s spike.
  • Polk’s increase of 1,603 cases over last week’s total is second only to the 2,139 hike in infections between the first and second weeks of January.
  • Last week’s testing positivity rate of 26.3% for Polk is substantially higher than the statewide rate of 18.9%.
  • New cases per 100,000 population in Polk this week came in at 792.5, compared with a statewide average of 612.1. Polk had the 13th highest cases-per-population number among Florida’s 67 counties.
  • The 86,837 Polk residents who have been infected so far represent 12% of the county’s population.

MONDAY UPDATE: The 12% figure for Polk residents infected so far has been updated from a higher number based on a reader pointing out an error.

In addition, the 5,703 new cases this week, the first week of August, represent an eight-fold increase over the 687 recorded for the first week of July as Polk and Florida report their steepest monthly rates of increase since the state started reporting data 18 months ago.

Statewide, 134,506 new infections were reported this week, more than 5.6 times the 23,697 reported in the first week of July.

Despite the rising numbers, local government officials say they have no leeway to enact enforcement measures because of an executive order issued by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May forbidding local restrictions.

RELATED:

  • Polk school district has no plans to challenge the state ban on mask mandates | News Channel 8
  • Florida approves vouchers for students in counties requiring masks | ABC News
  • Polk County commissioners spread untruths about COVID and vaccines | The Ledger
  • Local health leaders urge vaccinations as infections and hospitalizations reach new highs | LkldNow

In Polk, 55% of eligible residents have received at least one dose of vaccine, according to the latest state summary. The statewide proportion is 63%.

Polk residents ages 65 and older are the most heavily vaccinated, at 83%, according to Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Department of Health’s Polk County office.

Other age groups include 30% of residents ages 12 to 19 and 41% of residents ages 25 to 49, she said, adding that the latter group accounts for half of all new cases.

Similarly, Lakeland Regional Health’s CEO and medical director said at a news conference Thursday that most of their 275 patients who have tested positive for COVID 19 are under 50 and almost all have not been vaccinated.

The rate of new vaccinations in Polk started edging up after the start of July’s surge, Jackson said. During the last month, the weekly numbers have increased from 3,620 new vaccinations in Polk County to 5,222 to 8,200, to 9,650 this week, Jackson said. 

“So I want to especially thank those who were on the fence; they didn’t get it earlier, but they’re getting it now. And we need that to continue,” she said at Thursday’s news conference. People who want information can call her to get the facts about vaccination, Jackson said, “which is that they are safe, they are highly effective, and they can help prevent serious illness, hospitalizations and death.”

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