Two more people died of COVID-19 in Polk County on Monday as the county’s total rose to 14 and the number of nursing home deaths rose from five to seven, according to Florida Department of Health records.

The latest deaths involve an 87-year-old man and an 85-year-old woman; neither had traveled recently and one, the woman, had been in contact with another confirmed case, according to Monday evening’s COVID-19 update. It was unknown whether the man had been in contact with another confirmed case, the document said.

News Channel 8 reported Monday evening that 85-year-old Goldie Cummings of Lakeland had died earlier in the day after battling COVID-19 since early April.

Goldie Cummings, right

Cummings had been in isolation at Opis Highlands Lake Center, a nursing home on Lakeland Hills Boulevard, and then taken to Lakeland Regional Health, daughter Pamela Fox told the TV station.

And then Fox brought her mother home. “She passed away very peacefully in her sleep which is what I wanted. She was with me and not by herself,” she said.

Twenty-nine residents at Highlands Lake Center have tested positive for COVID-19 and are being treated at Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, the hospital said on Monday.

On Saturday, 35 residents of the nursing home who had either tested positive or showed symptoms were taken by ambulance from Highlands Lake to Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center, the hospital said in a news release.

The number of Polk long-term care residents and staff with confirmed COVID-19 cases rose from 38 to 42 on Monday, according to state reports.

It is unclear whether the newly disclosed Highlands Lake cases are included in that number, but the county’s total of 42 is a marked increase from April 6, when there were three.

Highlands Lake is one of six elder-care facilities in Polk County identified by the Health Department as having COVID-19 cases. (There had been five in Polk, but Savannah Court of Bartow was added to the list on Monday.)

The list of elder-care facilities, first released Saturday, includes no information on the number of cases at the facilities, when they were reported, whether there were any deaths at the facilities or whether the cases represent residents or staff.

While the state is not saying how many people have died at each facility and Highlands Lake has not commented, The Ledger previously linked three deaths to Highlands Lake, based on a report from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission and a family member. News Channel 8’s report about Cummings brings the number to four.

The cases transferred from Highlands Lake to Lakeland Regional Health are not showing yet on the state’s tally of people hospitalized with COVID-19 diagnoses. That number increased by three to 96 on Monday and has grown by just five over the last five days.

State officials note the number of people hospitalized is cumulative and does not reflect the number of people currently in hospitals.

In Polk County, the median age of confirmed COVID-19 patients is 53, but all of the deaths except one involve people older than that. Six of the 14 were in their 80s, two were in their 90s, two in their 70s, three in their 60s, and one was 49.

New totals

Nine new COVID19 were reported in Polk on Monday, bringing the county’s total to 335 and Lakeland’s to 123.

Monday’s report shows that 5,277 people have been tested in Polk, up 143 from the previous day. In addition to the 335 positive readings:

  • 4,940 were negative
  • 2 were inconclusive
  • 7 await results

Monday was the first day of Lakeland Regional Health’s appointment-only testing at the RP Funding Center. Five people were tested there in a process that took an average of eight to nine minutes, The Ledger reported. Results are expected in five or six days. The drive-through operation has a capacity of 75 tests per day. ALSO: Fox 13 News

The number of positive cases is likely 10 times the official number, Polk County Health Department Director Joy Jackson told city commissioners recently. Those who test positive now probably contracted the disease two to three weeks ago, given the time it takes for symptoms to show and test results to be processed.

In addition, the numbers of people being tested remains tiny compared with Polk County’s estimated population of 708,000 people. A shortage of test kits means only people who meet CDC criteria are being tested.

ZIP code data for Lakeland on Monday:

33801: 5 to 9 cases
33803: 11 cases
33805: 21 cases
33809: 5 to 9 cases
33810: 12 cases
33811: 1 to 4 cases
33812: 5 to 9 cases
33813: 43 cases
33815: 5 to 9 cases

View an interactive ZIP code map here. To find local ZIP code data, click on the “Cases by Zip Code” tab below the map and then scroll to Polk and click. Learn how ZIP code data is reported.

Current totals reported for Polk cities are:

  • Lakeland, 123
  • Winter Haven, 55
  • Davenport, 48
  • Kissimmee, 29*
  • Auburndale, 14
  • Lake Wales, 13
  • Mulberry, 8
  • Haines City, 8
  • Fort Meade, 6
  • Lake Alfred, 5
  • Bartow, 5
  • Frostproof, 4
  • Poinciana, 3
  • Eagle Lake, 2
  • Babson Park, 1
  • Champions Gate, 1
  • Dundee, 1
  • Indian Lakes Estates, 1
  • Polk City, 1
  • Wahneta, 1

* While Kissimmee is in Osceola County, the Health Department classifies a portion of east Polk as Kissimmee. It maintains a separate number for the Osceola portion of Kissimmee.

Download a full report for Monday.

Tracking the cases

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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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