Polk Reports Record COVID-19 Cases; Hospitalizations, Deaths Remain Muted

Polk County joined the rest of Florida in closing out 2021 with record numbers of COVID-19 infections, but hospitalizations and deaths are substantially below their summertime peaks.

In Polk County, 7,525 new cases were reported for the week of Dec. 24-30, according to the weekly update from the Florida Department of Health. The previous high was 7,510 the week of Aug. 20-26.

After the summer peak, infections declined to 301 by mid-November, but started creeping up, accelerating in recent weeks and skyrocketing from the 1,792 recorded the week before last.

Statewide, the number of new infections soared to 298,455 last week, compared with 125,201 the previous week.

Testing positivity in Polk jumped to 26.1% from 9.1% the week before. It was the highest reading since positivity topped out at 28.9% in mid-August.

Polk’s testing positivity rate was slightly lower than the statewide reading of 26.5%.

As of this weekend, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed all 67 of Florida counties at at “high” risk of community transmission.

With the current omicron variant considered less virulent than summer’s dominant delta strain, hospitalizations are up in recent weeks but well below the summertime highs.

On Thursday, 5,213 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel reported, noting, “though were most were likely admitted for reasons other than the virus and tested positive in the hospital.”

The Sentinel’s tally of statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations topped out at 17,380 on Aug. 18 and bottomed out at 1,231 on Nov. 26, but the numbers have steadily increased since mid-December.

Current hospitalization numbers for Lakeland Regional Health are not readily available, but last week the hospital reported that it had 65 patients with COVID-19 at 5 p.m. Tuesday; eighteen of those had been fully vaccinated.

The number of hospitalizations at Lakeland Regional are far down from summertime levels, when LRH consistently reported 200+ COVID-19 hospitalizations from the start of August until almost the end of September. The peak was 443 on Aug. 26.

Deaths attributed to COVID-19 continue declining in Florida, with the most recent seven-day averages at 2 last week, down from 398 at the end of August, according to The Sentinel’s compilation.

The CDC has no specific number of deaths for Polk, continuing to report Polk’s COVID-19 deaths as under 10 for the last seven days, as it has for several weeks.

Some other Polk readings from the latest Florida Department of Health report:

  • New vaccinations: 2,725, a decrease from 3,303 the previous week, likely reflecting holiday closures.
  • Population age 5+ with at least one vaccination: 64%, compared with 71% statewide; the Polk percentage is one percentage point higher over the previous week. The CDC puts Polk’s proportion of fully-vaccinated people over age 5 at 53.9%.
  • Cases per 100,000 population: 1,045.5 in Polk, compared with 1,358.1 statewide.

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