Reports of new COVID-19 cases are surging in the Tampa Bay area, including Pasco County, prompting fresh concerns among area health officials. “I wish I had better news to report,” said Mike Napier, Pasco Department of Health director.
Friday, Pasco reported 336 positive cases, pushing alarmingly toward the all-time daily high of 500 hit in December. “Some projections indicate we could exceed that daily total by [the end of this] week,” Napier said.
Positivity also spiked, hitting 19%, a pandemic record.
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The year-over-year trend makes these worrisome numbers look even worse: Case rates slumped locally after Independence Day 2020; the reverse has happened in 2021.
The silver lining? Deaths from COVID-19 are not matching the rise in cases, “a good signal,” Napier said, “that our elder population is protected, but we must remain vigilant in our long-term care facilities.”
“The message is clear, this virus is now targeting younger people and the unvaccinated,” said Mary C. Mayhew, President and CEO, Florida Hospital Association. “The best protection is getting vaccinated. It could be the factor that keeps you from getting the virus. It could lessen your symptoms if you are one of the small number that still contracts the virus. The vaccine will likely keep you away from the hospital and ICU. The vaccine will likely be the thing that saves your life.”
As cited in countless similar reports across the nation, the vast majority of cases testing positive in Pasco are among the unvaccinated population. While break-through cases occur – someone who is vaccinated contracts COVID-19 – such instances are rare, and result in mild symptoms with a 99% recovery rate.
The federal Centers for Disease Control indicates the highly contagious Delta variant accounts for 84% of the positive cases in Florida. The CDC reports a 62% increase of hospital admissions for COVID. Timely data can be found here.
Vaccinations have lagged following the initial surge: 45% of Pasco residents remain unvaccinated, accounting for virtually all of the coronavirus spread.
“At this point,” Napier said, “education is not working to get people to get vaccinated. What seems to be more effective, but unfortunate, is people have an unvaccinated friend or loved one get really sick or, in some instances, [suffer] a catastrophic event. And then they realize the vaccine might be a better alternative.” This, Napier observed, is "definitely not the way we want people to arrive at the decision to get vaccinated!”
Good to know: If you are fully vaccinated and are exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, you are not subject to the 10-14-day quarantine – unless you begin to show symptoms. This is especially important for school children (back to school August 10) who are eligible to be vaccinated and may be exposed and face state quarantine requirements if not vaccinated.
Napier’s gloomy forecast: We are likely to see a continued upward trend in COVID-19 through the end of September. This means those who are vaccinated still need to remain vigilant around those who are not vaccinated.
Did we mention access to the various vaccine formulas is widespread? (And every shot is free?!) Find a location convenient to you.