The latest numbers show that COVID-19 show that the virus is continuing to spread. In the last seven days alone there has been a 23 percent increase in positive cases. Due to the continued spread, the mask mandate is still firmly in place.
The mask mandate is still firmly in place as Hillsborough County attempts to get a grasp on the still rapidly rising COVID-19 cases.
While the decision has yet to have unanimous support from the group, it has long held the majority and that dynamic seems far from shifting.
The group extended the order with a 5-3 vote with Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and Hillsborough County School Board Member Melissa Snively voting against the order.
The EPG meets every Monday and Thursday afternoon and starts with 20 minutes of public comment. Then the group members are given a wide-reaching and in-depth analysis of the medical snapshot of the county.
This week, they were told that just over 13 percent of the population for Hillsborough County has been tested. Of those tested, 1.7 percent of the population has tested positive at some point. The rolling 14-day average of cases throughout the county is now at 670, a 5.9 percent increase. There is now also a 15 percent positivity rate in Hillsborough based on data from the daily test results. That came with a staggering reality. There has been a 23 percent increase in positive cases of COVID-19 over the past seven days alone.
Another concerning issue was brought to their attention: “The current trend in data reported by the Florida Department of Health shows a higher aggregate amount of hospitalizations for individuals above 50 years of age,” according to the report.
Of course Dr. Douglas Holt, head of the county health department, said the age group currently showing the highest rate of infection is 20 to 34 years old. The ICUs across the county are also showing a five percent increase over the past week.
Residents will soon see a change at testing sites around the county. Hillsborough County Emergency Management Director Tim Dudley announced that with the end of summer comes a new round of changes. Since their inception, the testing sites have been predominately staffed by volunteers from the University of South Florida College of Nursing. Those volunteers staffed community resource centers in east Tampa, Plant City, and SouthShore, but with the summer semester closing the county now has to look to new methods of obtaining a workforce.
Dudley thanked the volunteers for their hard work and then announced Hillsborough would transition medical staffing at those three sites to a contracted provider, with the state funding the initial 14-day period.
In an effort to restrict the ongoing spread of the virus, the county has been distributing face masks to the public at a variety of locations for the past several weeks. As of Monday the county announced it has distributed more than three million free face masks.
The conversation of stripping the power of the EPG for its pandemic response and reallocating that responsibility to the county commission continues to hover over every meeting. If the change is approved, the county will take the reins but every policy or ordinance currently in place will be automatically approved and continue under the county’s leadership. That means if the county commission begins handling the pandemic response, the mask mandate would automatically carry over until the county commissioners vote to not renew it.
If the change occurs, the EPG would still be responsible for handling hurricane response.
The next EPG meeting is at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon and it can be watched on the county’s YouTube and Facebook pages.