protecting their health. Many are choosing to stay home and celebrate virtually with their loved ones. Those who do intend to travel are being warned to take as many precautions as possible.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Florida continues to climb as we enter the holiday season.
On Tuesday, the state added 9,411 COVID-19 cases and 94 deaths. The latest data showed that Florida is averaging approximately 10,000 new cases a day this week, according to the Florida Department of Health. There have now been 1,143,794 coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic and the death toll is now at 20,365.
To break that down, Tampa Bay as a whole added 1,690 cases and 20 deaths on Tuesday. Hillsborough County now has had 66,548 cases and 1,003 deaths. Pinellas has had the second-highest contagion spread with 38,457 total cases and 963 deaths. Polk has a total of 31,668 cases and 733 deaths. Then there is a large gap with Manatee having 19,212 total cases and 403 deaths. Pasco has had 18,190 cases and 330 deaths. The next-highest was Hernando which had 6,097 cases and 249 deaths. Citrus has had the lowest total cases with 5,646 cases reported and 249 deaths.
Hillsborough County currently has a positivity rate of 8.8 percent. Hernando County has a positivity rate of 9.7 percent and Pasco County’s positivity rate is 9.3 percent. Citrus and Polk each have a 9.2 percent positivity rate. Pinellas and Manatee each have a positivity rate of 7.5 percent.
Those who plan to travel or gather in groups for the holidays face a ticking clock as testing sites across the state reach capacity. To combat the surge of demand, Hillsborough County has added two new testing sites at the Vance Vogel Sports Complex and the William Owen Pass Sports Complex. Getting tested is the best way to ensure you aren’t unknowingly infecting those you love this holiday season and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19, who have spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of someone who has tested positive or who recently participated in a high-risk activity — like going somewhere that made social distancing difficult — make sure they test as soon as possible. You can visit hillsboroughcounty.org to view all of the county’s testing locations and brush up on the protocols for getting tested. The site also has the locations that are supported or operated by the state. You can also make appointments through third-party vendors like BayCare, at CVS and Walgreens, at a variety of Urgent Cares or other companies. Some locations are free, others take insurance and others still have a straight fee. Make sure you do your research before you go and take into consideration the turnaround time for results. Many locations are closing for the holidays as well, so make your appointments as early as possible. The CDC recommends you get tested one to three days before you travel. Even if you get a negative, the CDC recommends you avoid all nonessential activities for a week or longer after the trip and test again three to five days after the trip.
The good news is that the vaccine is officially here — sort of. Tampa Bay received its first Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine shipment on Monday. Those 20,000 doses will be distributed to health care workers all over the region. The next priority for recipients is currently focused on long-term care facilities.
The bad news? The availability in the long-term of the vaccine is still unclear, as is the priority status of who can receive the initial doses.