Coronavirus in Tampa Bay: Rural, poorer communities getting less access to testing

Coronavirus

Coronavirus testing (WFLA photo)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – More than 185,500 people in Florida have been teated for coronavirus, and data from the state’s Department of Health is showing significant income disparities of those being tested.

Nearly 21,000 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID-19. But among all 67 counties in the state, seven of the 10 counties with the lowest testing rates have median incomes below $40,000.

Hillsborough County residents, for example, have a median income of more than $56,000 according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Health care workers have tested 12,393 people in Hillsborough, meaning the county is testing 842 people per 100,000. Those tests have resulted in 770 positive and 11,480 negative tests, the Florida Department of Health reported Monday afternoon.

In more rural areas of the Tampa Bay area, however, testing rates are lower, as is the median income, despite higher social vulnerability.

Coronavirus testing and income

Poorer, more rural counties are not getting access to testing. Hover over the bars to see the numbers.

Testing

Income

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Florida Dept. of Health

Median household income in Highlands County is $37,314 and an estimated 20.4 percent of Highlands County residents are impoverished. The county has only tested 457 per 100,000 people.

With an estimated total population of 106,221 – 43 percent of whom are aged 60 or older – Highlands County’s CDC Social Vulnerability Index is the highest in the country at .85.

A new report from Esri data mapper John Nelson showed that Highlands County is one of the most vulnerable in the country when it comes to fighting coronavirus, based on its residents’ health, poverty and mobility.

For weeks, Florida as a whole was lagging behind much of the country when it came to coronavirus testing. But according to the COVID Tracking Project, a test-tracking resource from two journalists at The Atlantic and the founder of a medical-data startup, the state has caught up with testing for COVID-19.

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