Pinellas County confirmed a staggering 24 deaths from COVID-19 Wednesday, according to Florida Department of Health data released Thursday.
The county’s death toll now sits at 990, an uncharacteristically high 3% of all cases within the county. By comparison, the COVID-19 death rate statewide is just 2%.
That death toll is largely driven by Pinellas County’s high incidence of COVID-19 cases in longterm care facilities. A total of 13% of Pinellas County’s caseload has been among residents or staff at longterm care facilities like assisted living or nursing homes. Statewide, only 5% of all cases have been reported from such facilities.
That’s one of the reasons Pinellas County is one of only a handful of areas already administering vaccines to residents and staff at longterm care facilities through Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “strike teams.”
More than 21,000 doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccines are being administered through that program in Pinellas and Broward counties.
Meanwhile, neighboring Hillsborough County reported just four new deaths Wednesday, a number that has been relatively consistent in recent weeks. The death toll now sits at 1,015. There, the COVID-19 death rate is about the same as the state’s at 2%. And like the state, only 5% of Hillsborough County’s overall caseload have been from within longterm care facilities.
Still, Hillsborough County is experiencing an overall larger spike in new COVID-19 cases even if health outcomes aren’t as grim.
The county reported 741 new cases between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning, the most single day cases in weeks. There have now been 67,801 cases reported in Hillsborough County.
The influx was driven by a high number of tests returned and a continued high positivity rate. Of the county’s 6,949 tests returned Wednesday, 9.39% were positive. That’s down slightly from the previous day, but marks the third day in a row and the fourth day in a week the positivity rate has been above 9%.
Pinellas County tallied 554 new cases between Wednesday morning and Thursday morning, also the most in weeks, for a total of 39,337 cases since the pandemic landed in Florida in March.
The county’s single day positivity rate for Wednesday dropped slightly from Tuesday, from 8.8% to 7.51%. But overall the rate is slowly climbing. The county’s seven day average positivity rate is 7.24%, slightly higher than its 14-day average of 7.05%.