Polk County’s new COVID infections on the rise, but positivity rate drops slightly in latest report


Amid global concerns about the spread of the omicron variant, Polk County has seen a slight increase in new COVID-19 infections and a drop in positive test results.

These mixed indicators emerged from Friday’s weekly update released by the Florida Department of Health.

The state agency reported 339 new cases for Polk County, a 12.6% increase from the previous report. The test positivity rate was 2.7%, up from 2.9% in the last update.

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It was not clear how the Thanksgiving holiday could have affected the numbers. The health ministry did not release its typical Friday November 26 report, but released an update on Tuesday with figures for the previous week.

New infections for Polk County jumped in mid-November after 10 weeks of steady, sometimes dramatic reductions. But the numbers fell again before the last relatively small increase.

At 2.7%, Polk County’s positivity rate remains well below the 10% target set by the Florida Department of Health to control transmission. The World Health Organization sets 5% as a maximum target.

Polk’s positivity rate climbed to 28.9% in mid-August, at the height of the resurgence caused by the spread of the delta variant.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reduced Polk County’s risk of transmission to “substantial” after it fell to “moderate” two weeks earlier. The CDC reported 52.84 cases per 100,000 population for Polk County on Friday, just above the threshold of 50 cases for the “substantial” label.

The Florida Department of Health, however, lists Polk County at 47.1 cases per 100,000 population.

Polk’s risk of transmission remained “high” for much of the summer, when Polk County and Florida hit record levels of weekly infections and positivity rates.

The state agency has registered 130,166 confirmed infections in Polk County since it began tracking cases.

A 24/7 Wall St. report ranked Polk County 45th out of 383 metropolitan areas with data available for cumulative infections. As of Tuesday, Polk County had 18,946.3 confirmed cases per 100,000 population, compared to the national rate of 14,848.4 cases per 100,000, 24/7 Wall St. reported.

Weekly vaccinations in Polk County have increased slightly. The Department of Health recorded 3,099 vaccinations of local residents in Friday’s update, up 0.9% from the previous report.

Statewide, the agency reported 497,854 new vaccinations, a 17.6% increase from the previous update.

Of weekly vaccinations in Florida, 61.9% were boosters – additional doses beyond the original two-dose regimen of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Another 20.3% were first doses and 17.8% were completed sets of injections.

The CDC has recommended booster doses for anyone 18 years of age and older at least six months after a first regimen of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines and at least two months after a first Johnson & Johnson vaccine. About 43 million Americans have received booster doses, the CDC reported.

In Polk County, 62% of eligible residents received at least one dose, the state agency reported. Polk ranks 26th out of 67 counties in Florida for its vaccination rate, according to a website maintained by Jason Salemi, associate professor of epidemiology at the USF Health College of Public Health.

The CDC’s website on Friday listed 60.9% of Polk County residents aged 12 and older as fully immunized, an increase of 0.8 percentage points from the previous week.

Children aged 5 to 11 became eligible for vaccinations in early November. About 7% of Polk County children in this age group had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of Friday, the Florida Department of Health in Polk County reported.

This ranked the county behind the statewide immunization level of 9% for children aged 5 to 11.

The CDC reported 61 new hospital admissions for COVID in Polk County for the week ending Friday. The CDC recorded 11 COVID-related deaths for the county, four fewer than the week before.

Polk County had accumulated 2,504 deaths until Nov. 25, according to the Pub Info Salemi website. The Florida Department of Health stopped reporting county-level deaths in June.

The Department of Health has recorded 153 other COVID-related deaths statewide. Deaths are a lagging indicator in official reports, and the department does not say when the deaths occurred.

The agency lists the cumulative number of deaths from COVID-19 in Florida at 61,701.

Gary White can be reached at gary.white@theledger.com or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @ garywhite13.

This article originally appeared on The Ledger: COVID update: Polk County has mixed numbers


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