Mirroring statewide figures showing a surge in new COVID-19 cases, Polk County today reported 57 new instances of the disease, the largest daily increase yet. Until last week, the largest number reported in one day was 38 on May 29. Now we’ve had seven straight days of numbers that high or higher.

Polk mirrors a state trend in another way. The number of deaths reported statewide by the Florida Department of Health has been down in recent days, and today was the third straight day that no deaths were reported in Polk. That hasn’t happened here since May 25, and before that it was April 27.

Seventeen of the new cases are in Lakeland, which at 590 is closing in on 600 cases of the disease.

Statewide figures today showed 2,783 new infections for a total of 80,109 cases. Like Polk, today was the largest increase in a single day yet reported in Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday attributed recent statewide increases to a combination of higher testing and growing cases among younger patients less likely than elderly people to need hospitalizations.

In Polk County, three-quarters of deaths are have involved nursing-home residents, but the largest single age group infected with COVID-19 is 35 to 44, as seen in this series of charts for Polk County from today’s Department of Health dashboard.

Speaking to Polk County Commissioners on Monday, the director of the Department of Health in Polk County said the increase in testing explains only part of the rise in cases locally. There’s also been a rise in hospital admissions for patients admitted with flu-like symptoms that haven’t yet been confirmed as COVID-19, Dr. Joy Jackson said.

“I think we do have a problem. We’re truly seeing more cases,” Jackson told commissioners, according to an article in The Ledger.

Testing has increased dramatically in Polk County in the last month. Before May 17, there had been only one day when more than 500 new tests were reported. About that time, the Health Department set a goal of 500 tests per day in Polk, and since then, that goal has been exceeded 22 times, including the last 14 days in a row.

During that period, the proportion of tests that came back positive dropped at first, but has held steady with a cumulative rate between 4.5% and 4.9% since May 20.

But a new dashboard tells a different tale. It was created by Rebekah Jones, a geography specialist who helped create the state dashboard and was fired from her job at the Department of Health, she says, for refusing to manipulate data for political purposes.

Jones contends that the state DOH dashboard gives an artificially low rate of positive tests because it includes multiple negative tests for a given individual but only one positive test.

Her new dashboard makes use of Department of Health data that underlies the dashboard but isn’t publicly displayed. It includes a number she calls “percent positive for all people tested.” She claims it is a true representation of the number of people who have tested positive and excludes retests or duplicate tests.

Her figures for Polk County in the last four days have shown the number of people testing positive growing from 7.6% to 8.4%. Meanwhile, the state DOH figure for positive tests has been at 4.5% and 4.6%.

Latest numbers

This morning’s COVID-19 updates from the Florida Department of Health compared with the previous day:

  • Polk confirmed cases: 1,566, an increase of 57
  • Lakeland confirmed cases: 590, an increase of 17
  • Polk deaths: 75, unchanged
  • Polk hospitalizations: 386, an increase of 4

The numbers of confirmed cases and hospitalizations are cumulative and do not reflect how many people have recovered or have been released from the hospital.

Testing in Polk

  • Total tested: 34,104, an increase of 604
  • Positive: 1,566
  • Negative: 32,531
  • Inconclusive: 1
  • Await results: 11
  • Percent positive: 4.6%, an increase of 0.1%

The Jones dashboard shows that 18,691 people have been tested in Polk and that 45.2% of the larger number of tests reported by the state represent retests or duplicates.

Long-term care facilities

  • Deaths involving Polk facilities: 56, unchanged
  • Number of Polk facilities with reported cases: 10, Here’s a link to the most recent report. (Today’s report had not been released by the time this article was posted.)

Lakeland facilities with high numbers, as of Monday:

  • Highlands Lake Center reports 90 cases: 64 residents who were transferred away and 26 staff.
  • Lakeland Hills Center reports 59 cases: 28 residents, 23 who transferred away and 8 staff members
  • Grace Manor at Lake Morton reports 32 cases: 31 residents who were transferred away and 1 staff.
  • Consulate Health Care of Lakeland reports 24 cases: 9 residents, 12 who transferred away and 3 staff.

A large majority of COVID-19 deaths in Polk County have involved people who have lived in long-term-care facilities:

More Polk County data

The Florida Department of Health is now releasing county-by-county charts. Here are today’s for Polk:

Click the image to view a larger version
Click the image to view a larger version

ZIP Codes

Cases in Lakeland ZIP codes:

33801: 80
33803: 45
33805: 122
33809: 58
33810: 77
33811: 26
33812: 22
33813: 128
33815: 24

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.

Cases in Polk cities

  • Lakeland, 590
  • Winter Haven, 313
  • Davenport, 117
  • Bartow, 85
  • Lake Wales, 80
  • Auburndale, 66
  • Kissimmee, 63*
  • Mulberry, 54
  • Haines City, 44
  • Fort Meade, 35
  • Frostproof, 16
  • Lake Alfred, 13
  • Eagle Lake, 9
  • Poinciana, 9
  • Polk City, 9
  • Dundee, 6
  • Waverly, 4
  • Babson Park, 3
  • Wahneta, 2
  • Kathleen, 2
  • Gibsonia, 1
  • Cypress Gardens, 1
  • Bradley, 1
  • Champions Gate, 1
  • Indian Lakes Estates, 1
  • Lake Hamilton, 1
  • Lakeshore (formerly Fedhaven), 1
  • Clermont, 1*
  • No city named, 26

* 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. A similar situation exists for Clermont, which is in Lake County.

Download the latest detailed Florida report | View archived reports

Tracking the cases

A graphic showing the daily numbers of new cases in Lakeland and the rest of Polk normally appears here. Today it is being shown near the top of the article.

The other chart that usually appears under this heading showed the number of ICU and general hospital beds in use at Lakeland Regional Health and Polk as a whole compared with total capacity. LkldNow is no longer updating those two charts.

They were initiated when there had been fears that the demand for hospital beds and particularly ICU beds might outstrip the supply in Florida. That has not come to pass.

A Lakeland Regional Health vice president told LkldNow that the ICU capacity reported to the state daily does not include a cushion of 50 beds, so the hospital had flexibility even on days when the chart showed it at capacity.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips: newstips@lkldnow.com

Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com 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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