Rural Southwest Florida suffers rapid COVID-19 spread as hospitals swell with unvaccinated

Coronavirus delta epsilon lambda variant covid-19
Rural counties with largely unvaccinated populations are experiencing some of the worst rates.

The latest data released by Florida’s Department of Health shows more than 15,000 more people tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Positivity rates show the worst spread is happening in inland counties, where vaccination rates remain low.

While populations remain much lower in the Heartland counties, it’s striking the four counties with less than half the population vaccinated also saw more than one in five individuals tested positive for the coronavirus.

In Glades County, the positivity rate reached 32.6%, compared to the statewide rate of 19.3%. Only 44.5% of residents have been vaccinated in the county. Meanwhile in Hardee County, where just 37% have had the jab, health officials reported a 25.7% positivity rate for residents.

Epidemiologists generally consider the spread of a virus out of control when the positive rate exceeds 10%.

Four counties — DeSoto, Glades, Hardee and Hendry — cumulatively reported just 699 cases of the 14,945 new cases this week in the 10-county region. But within those four small counties, 14.23% of all residents have at some point in the pandemic contracted COVID-19. About 4.4% of those cases were recorded in the last week.

More populous counties suffered greater case loads in general. In Lee County, Southwest Florida’s most populous, 5,603 new cases were reported just this week.

The lowest spread for the virus was in Sarasota County, which still saw a positivity rate of 14.9%. Notably, the county also has the highest vaccination rate with 66.23% of county residents who had at least their first shot. Comparatively, only 56.03% of Lee residents have been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, local hospitals are reporting significant problems with capacity in the region. At Lee Health, there are now 498 inpatients with COVID-19, 86 of whom were admitted Thursday. Of those, 81 are being treated in the ICU, with 46% of those on ventilators.

At Sarasota Memorial Health Care, 209 of the 783 patients at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. That includes 47 of the 75 ICU patients. Hospital officials note 90% of those testing positive have not had the vaccine.

Similarly, 86% of COVID-19 patients at NCH in Naples have not had the vaccine. There are 170 hospitalized in that system, with 42 patients in the ICU and another 23 on ventilators. The youngest patient being treated there is 15 years old, the oldest 98.

Southwest Florida COVID data as of 8-13-21.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Sonja Fitch

    August 14, 2021 at 6:04 am

    Yo Duffus Desantis the emergency is the damn Delta virus! Hospitals overloaded. Schools closing. Duffus Desantis wtfu use your brain ! Mmm ok Duffus Desantis is making political bs by willingly slaughtering Floridians and now our children. Lock up Duffus Desantis! Get out Desantis!

  • Osvaldo NT

    August 14, 2021 at 6:23 am

    Guess what else the four counties (DeSoto, Glades, Hardee and Hendry) share? Low education levels – check at…
    This is a no-brainer: people with lower education level are those who refuse or procastinate vaccination… and get sick when they shouldn’t

  • Anna

    August 14, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    My neighbor’s aunt makes 62 every hour on the she has been without work for eight months but the previous month her revenue was 19022 only working on the laptop 5 hours a day..

    check this……

  • PeterH

    August 15, 2021 at 11:24 am

    The wearing of face masks to protect yourself from infection will be ongoing for decades to come. You will have downtime in your private residence and when you’re socially distanced in the great outdoors.

    Businesses will mandate masks and I would expect we’ll see Covid Passports for restaurants and public transportation. …. similar to the passports we see in the EU…..and annual booster vaccines with tweaked immunity protocols for current variants.

    Americans should put ‘herd immunity’ in the rear view mirror. We’ll never achieve herd immunity with so many variants and so many unwilling to get vaccinated.

Comments are closed.


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