COVID-19 cases continue to rise toward 4th wave as testing decreases, experts urge importance of safety measures

Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — As coronavirus cases rise across the country, including Florida, experts are warning that a fourth wave is emerging.

“A month ago we were pretty much scraping right at 5 percent for a couple of weeks, which is the threshold, just a little bit below it. If you hold it for three weeks, WHO says you can start releasing some of your public health measures, but since then it’s rebounded and gone up once again a little bit above 9 percent, was the last numbers I’ve seen. That’s really indicating that we are really in a fourth wave,” said Dr. Thomas Unnasch, the co-director for the Center for Global Health Infectious Disease Research.

The current positive rate in the state is 8.94 percent.

Experts say a number of factors are to blame for the rise in cases, including the highly contagious UK variant and pandemic fatigue.

And while vaccination efforts are ramping up, the number of people getting tested is dropping.

Rosheda Honorat is a registered nurse at the University Mall testing site in Hillsborough County and is seeing this firsthand.

“We went from 2,000 people getting tested a day to now roughly around 1,000 a day. We still want people to be aware that with this wave, it’s good to just be informed as to what your status may potentially be, and how you can prevent the spread,” Honorat said.

“It does really hurt us in terms of trying to figure out what the real case numbers is and what the state of the pandemic is because people aren’t getting tested,” said Dr. Unnasch.

Dr. Unnasch said vaccination efforts are helping.

“That has really blunted the predictions on the fourth wave now. Right now, it looks much less like a tsunami,” he said.

He’s urging people to keep practicing COVID-19 safety protocols.

“At least for about another four to six weeks. I think if we manage to do it for another four to six weeks, the vaccinations are going to be able to overtake this fourth wave and the virus, the spread of the virus. We will start to see herd immunity and this is just going to start to decline,” he said.

Dr. Unnasch estimated the country could start to turn a corner on the pandemic by the end of June, early July.

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