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Polk County has highest COVID-19 percent positive rate among Florida’s most populated counties

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Out of Florida’s 10 most populous counties, Polk County has the highest percent positivity, according to data on Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The distinction was first pointed out by St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Twitter.

While Pinellas County’s percent positivity rate hovers around 3%, Polk County’s is close to 8%.

Percent positivity reflects how many new COVID-19 tests come back positive.

“We cannot let up. We cannot let up,” said Dr. Joy Jackson, director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County.

According to Dr. Jackson, many long-term trends are positive in Polk County, including hospitalizations and COVID-19 case numbers.

She believes Polk’s comparatively high positivity rate may be due to its size.

“We’re 2,000 square miles. We’re very rural so there’s distances. I think the impact of disease may be a little different in this county,” said Dr. Jackson.

Polk County is testing 10,000 people a week, according to Dr. Jackson.

“The virus never gets tired. It doesn’t get fatigued. It doesn’t get bored,” said Dr. Steven Achinger, managing partner at Watson Clinic in Lakeland.

Dr. Achinger sees positive trends, including the volume of patients being seen for COVID-related illnesses, and worrying trends, including a slight increase recently in COVID-19 cases.

Unlike Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Polk County never issued a countywide mask mandate.

“I do think they increase the compliance rate and it gets us under much better control. I think we would be in a better position if there had been a countywide mandate,” said Dr. Achinger.

While county commissioners spent more than $1 million in CARES Act funding to buy disposable masks to distribute to residents, they never considered a mask mandate.

“Do you have any regrets about not doing a countywide mask mandate?” 8 On Your Side’s Staci DaSilva asked commissioner George Lindsey.

“No, I think it’s still the right decision. People have become accustomed to the CDC guidelines, showing their own initiative to respect all the guidelines,” he replied.

Both Dr. Jackson and Dr. Achinger urged people in Polk County to get vaccinated for the flu.

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