Anomaly or the beginning of a dark trend: Hillsborough COVID-19 positive test rate balloons to 32%

Fewer tests over the Christmas holiday likely led to the spike.

In what might be a single day anomaly, Hillsborough County recorded its highest every percent positivity for COVID-19 tests received in a single day.

Florida Department of Health data released Tuesday shows Hillsborough had a 32.56% positivity rate on Monday. That’s well over double the previous day, which was a recent high, and the highest by far since the pandemic landed in Florida in March.

The high rate of positive tests is likely attributed to the fact that very few tests were actually received, just 1,539. The tests likely reflect those patients took on or near Christmas when test-seekers were probably more likely to only seek a test if they were actively experiencing symptoms. Still, that’s a trend Florida already saw over the Thanksgiving holiday and there was never a spike in positive test rates anything close to these levels then.

The spike is much higher than the state positivity rate, but even there, Florida as a whole saw a more than 22% rate for tests returned Monday. Numerous Florida counties all saw similar jumps in positivity rates.

The high rate means that even with fewer than 1,600 tests received, 758 more cases of COVID-19 were tallied from Monday morning to Tuesday morning, brining Hillsborough County’s total tally to 75,547.

Reports in the coming days will tell officials whether this is a one-off or the start of a dark chapter in the state’s battle against the pandemic, even as Floridians begin to receive vaccinations.

There was good news in Hillsborough. Tuesday’s DOH report showed no new confirmed deaths from the virus and just 10 new hospitalizations.

Meanwhile in Pinellas County, the daily percent positivity rate did not jump as significantly. However, the county confirmed five deaths and 30 new hospitalizations, a trend that continues to show Pinellas County, with its population older on average than Hillsborough, has more severe health outcomes for the virus. A total of 1,040 people have died with the virus in Pinellas County, just 24 fewer than in Hillsborough County despite Hillsborough having more than 30,000 more confirmed total cases.

Monday’s positivity rate in Pinellas County was 13.85%, up from 12.56% on Sunday and just 6.47% on Saturday. It’s the first time in months Pinellas recorded a positivity rate higher than 10% two days in a row. But it’s nowhere near the spike seen in neighboring Hillsborough.

That could be because Pinellas County actually saw an increase day-over-day in tests received. The county receive results for 2,320 tests Monday, up from 1,915 on Sunday, but down from 3,120 on Saturday. Still, it’s a far cry from the more than 7,000 tests received two days before Christmas on a day that showed a positivity rate just over 6%.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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