TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started releasing county-level COVID-19 death data on Sept. 14. For Florida, the data hasn’t been available since June, when the state switched to weekly data reports and removed what some health experts call their “granularity.”

Now, the reports are publicly available, allowing Floridians to see how their counties are doing in the daily fight against COVID-19.

The currently available data covers COVID numbers week by week through Sept. 13. The most recent report compares the week of Sept. 7 to Sept. 13 to the week before, Sept. 1 to Sept. 6.

From that data, the counties with the biggest number of deaths versus the community size in Tampa Bay are Hernando and Highlands counties, with the highest number of deaths per 100,000 people over the 7-day period the data covers.

The previous week’s counties with the highest deaths per 100,000 were Hardee and, again, Hernando.

Among the 10 counties making up the Tampa Bay area, five counties are showing increasing deaths. Those counties are Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee and Sarasota counties, which have all increased from 11% to 118%.

The 118% increase for Highlands County is not a typo. The county has gone from 17 deaths in the week of Sept. 1 to Sept. 6, to now reporting 37 deaths in the week of Sept. 7 to Sept. 13. Per capita, Highlands is currently reported as 17 deaths per 100,000 people, and the county’s population is 106,221.

So far, 453 Highlands County residents have died from COVID-19.

In Hernando County, the other Tampa Bay community with high deaths per capita, the bigger county is still showing a similar trend. More population means more deaths. Cumulatively, 717 Hernando County residents have died.

Among Hernando’s 193,920 residents, 65 died from Sept. 7 to Sept. 13. In deaths per capita, 33.5 have died per 100,000 in the past week, ending Sept. 13. The death rate per week has gone up 18% as of the most recent data.

Across Tampa Bay, people are still dying of COVID-19, even if some of the counties show decreases from week-to-week in percentages.

Since the start of the pandemic, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties are the two communities in Tampa Bay with the most cumulative COVID deaths. Since March 2020, Hillsborough County had 2,409 deaths from COVID-19. Pinellas County had 2,203.

Hillsborough’s death rate is up 31%, and saw 114 deaths in the week of Sept. 13. Pinellas had 124 deaths, but its death rate is down 7%.

In terms of sheer numbers of deaths, Polk County isn’t far behind Hillsborough and Pinellas, even if its death rate has dropped recently, with 96 COVID deaths in the week of Sept. 13 and the death rate dropping by 7%. Still, 1,941 Polk County residents have died to COVID-19.

Hardee County has had the fewest deaths over the most recently reported seven day period, with only five residents dying of COVID-19. Its death rate has dropped 55% and has only had 65 deaths to the virus since the start of the pandemic.

Now that the data is available at the county level, COVID-19’s impact on the public will be easier to track week over week.

Dr. Jason Salemi, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of South Florida, first reported the change in an email to news organizations. He noticed the change while updating the COVID-19 dashboard that he operates.

From Salemi’s email:

Quick note that COVID-19 deaths in Florida are once again being updated at the county level. Information on resident COVID-19 deaths had not been updated at the county level since the June 6, 2021 “Community Profile Report” (PDF and Excel spreadsheet). The cumulative county numbers remained the same through the September 10, 2021 report released yesterday. However, as of today’s report, the county numbers have been updated.

Email, in part, noting the change in death reports from the CDC for COVID-19 data in Florida

As of the data through Sept. 13, 2021, here’s how Tampa Bay counties are faring.

COUNTYDeaths over 7 daysDeaths per 100K over 7 DaysDeaths over previous 7 daysPrevious week Deaths per 100K over 7 days% ChangeCumulative Deaths
(Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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