Both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties saw single-day spikes in new cases of COVID-19, buoyed by a significant influx in tests returned.
Hillsborough County confirmed 900 new cases from Wednesday morning to Thursday morning, according to the Florida Department of Health’s Thursday COVID-19 report. That’s up from the just 290 confirmed in Wednesday’s report.
Likewise, Pinellas County confirmed 543 new cases, up from 378 cases confirmed in Wednesday’s report.
Hillsborough County has now seen 63,339 cases of the virus, while Pinellas County has logged 36,426 cases since the onset of the pandemic.
The trends are troubling for the region as statewide, new cases continue to creep back to the midsummer levels seen during the state’s second wave.
While the uptick in new cases is less abrupt now than it was in July, the steady climb is clear.
Pinellas County saw a slowdown in its positivity rate for new positive test results, at 6.95% down from 9.11% on Tuesday. But the longer-term positivity rates continue to climb. The seven day rolling average is now 6.98%. The 14-day average is lower, at 6.4%, which indicates an ongoing upward trajectory.
Hillsborough’s long-term positivity rates are actually down, despite a single-day spike. On Wednesday, 8.89% of test results returned were positive for COVID-19, up from 8.45% on Tuesday and 7.15% on Monday. While that three-day trend shows a possible pattern emerging in the wrong direction, the 14-day average is higher, 7.69%, than the seven-day average, 7.59%. That suggests positivity rates are on the decline.
However, health officials have been expecting to see a resurgence in positive tests following the Thanksgiving holiday. Thursday’s report is the first to not include pre-Thanksgiving data and it marks the point at which health officials expected to start seeing that surge.
The higher number of tests returned also suggests more people are either noticing symptoms or are worried about possible contact with someone who already tested positive for the virus. Hillsborough County received results from 9,154 tests Wednesday, the highest by far in at least two weeks and up from just 3,164 Tuesday and 5,167 on Monday. The next highest number of test results returned in the past two weeks was 6,878 on Dec. 3 when the positivity rate was just 6.99%
Deaths are also continuing to creep up, a lagging indicator that doesn’t reflect a new spike for weeks after total cases increase. Hillsborough County has now confirmed 977 deaths related to the novel coronavirus, up five from the day prior. Three deaths were confirmed in the Wednesday report. Pinellas County confirmed just one new death in Thursday’s report and two in Wednesday’s.
Pinellas County could also be looking at hospital capacity issues if trends don’t reverse. An additional 13 COVID-19 patients were reported hospitalized Thursday, down from the 23 new hospitalizations reported Wednesday. Hillsborough County reported just six new hospitalizations Thursday and seven on Wednesday.