New COVID Cases in Polk Decline for a Second Week

A downturn in new COVID-19 cases in Polk County continued for a second straight week as the Florida Department of Health reported 4,787 new infections here. That’s 1,387 fewer new cases than were reported last week, the largest one-week drop to date. Still, the past week’s total was the sixth highest since the coronavirus crisis started in Polk 18 months ago.

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The testing positivity rate also declined this week to 18.2% from last week’s 19.6%, according to the weekly state update released this evening. It’s the third straight week positivity has fallen in Polk but it’s still significantly above the 10% rate that local governments are shooting for.

Across Florida, 100,012 new infections were reported this week, the lowest rate since mid-July.

Here is how Polk compares with statewide averages in several key areas:

  • Testing positivity: Polk, 18.2%; Florida, 13.5%
  • Cases per 100,000 population: Polk, 665.2; Florida, 455.1
  • Overall case positivity: Polk, 25.8%; Florida, 21.1%
  • Vaccinations – Age 12+ residents receiving at least one dose of vaccine: Polk, 62%; Florida, 69%

In all, 118,826 infections have been reported in Polk County since March 2020, according to the DOH. Statewide, there have been 3,409,165 cases.

The number of deaths statewide decreased this week. The state added 2,448 deaths for a cumulative 48,772, compared with 2,345 fatalities last week.

The state is not currently releasing death figures for each county, as it did prior to June of this year.

Hospital cases

On Tuesday, a Lakeland Regional Health vice president gave an update on COVID cases to the Lakeland City Commission and noted the number of COVID patients at the hospital had started declining a week earlier. He wondered aloud whether that signals a peak in cases or perhaps a plateau.

The numbers that came out two days later showed slight increases, going from 368 hospitalized patients with COVID-19 on Tuesday morning to 373 on Wednesday afternoon.

The number of COVID patients in intensive care rose from 56 to 72 during that period, and the number of COVID patients on ventilators increased from 58 to 63.

“We still have more than 60 people on the ventilator with COVID and that is a very hard struggle for patients,” Dr. Daniel Haight, the hospital’s medical director of Infection Prevention, told News Channel 8.

Including non-COVID patients, 116 ICU beds were occupied at Lakeland Regional Health out of a capacity of 128, according to the latest data compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That leaves a reserve of fewer than 10% of ICU beds.

LRH posted charts on social media Thursday showing that 84.7% of its total population of COVID patients is unvaccinated, 95.8% of COVID patients in ICU are unvaccinated, and 96.8% of COVID patients on ventilators are unvaccinated.

This week’s state report