Polk Co. hospitalizations double as coronavirus cases ‘significantly’ increase, Health Dept. director says

Coronavirus

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – 2020 is ending with a significant increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in Polk County.

“I think we’re starting to see the impact of Thanksgiving,” Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Health Department in Polk County, told city leaders in Winter Haven this week.

Cases have gone up “significantly” in the last week, according to Dr. Jackson.

“Hospitalizations across Polk have increased. Hospitalizations currently are twice what they were a month ago,” said Dr. Jackson.

There are between 150-160 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in the county currently.

COVID-related deaths and the all-important positivity rate are also on the rise, according to Dr Jackson.

“Last week our positivity was over 9%. The past two days, a single day positivity percent, we’ve been over 10%,” said Dr. Jackson.

The positivity rate is the percentage of coronavirus tests that come back positive.

Some Lakeland leaders use it as an indicator for further action.

“If that drives up, if our positivity rate drives up above 10% for 14 days or more, we know hospital beds are going to get scarce and so that’s what we’re protecting against,” said Lakeland Mayor Bill Mutz.

Mayor Mutz would reintroduce a mask mandate in the city if Polk’s positivity rate was over 10% for two weeks.

“It is a long time and the reason that we would wait that long is because we know what a contentious issue it is for some. We’d like to do it sooner,” said Mayor Mutz.

Commissioner Sara Roberts McCarley acknowledged to 8 On Your Side that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ order banning local enforcement of mask mandates takes the teeth out of any potential ordinance.

Dr. Jackson urges caution this holiday season.

“We all need to be more careful than we think we need to be,” said Dr. Jackson. “We are finding that family gatherings, weddings, funerals, social events are where a lot of people are being exposed.”

Lakeland Regional Health expects to receive coronavirus vaccines soon after the five hospitals in Florida’s pilot program.

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