The Emergency Policy Group discussed the rising number of COVID-19 cases for Hillsborough County.
With the number of positive COVID-19 cases continuing to rise, the county is imploring residents to help practice simple strategies to help stem the spread.
The presentation to the members of the Emergency Policy Group on Monday afternoon showed statistics that caused many to scramble to outline a path forward. Dr. Douglas Holt, county director of the Florida Department of Health, is frequently asked by the group for a “trigger,” a sign that indicates that now is the time to act. He’s been reluctant in the past to provide one as he’s said there are many factors that play into knowing when the county has crossed the line into an area of immediate concern.
However, he came with a frank statement on Monday.
“We certainly don’t need to retreat, but we need to get some cooperation,” Holt said. “I just can’t accept that our community won’t pull together and reduce this transmission.”
It’s a message many of the group, including Plant City Mayor Rick Lott, have echoed for months. Lott has frequently praised the business community and the cooperation of citizens to abide by the CDC guidelines and ensure they are going about their business safely in the community.
Like the information Holt presented last week, this week’s rise showed a growing trend of the working population being infected. Over the past 14 days — through Sunday morning — the data showed that the age group of 18 to 35 years old now makes up 26 percent of the county’s cases.
While more cases are being reported — there is now a 14-day average of more than 100 cases a day with a positivity rate of 5.7 percent — the number of hospitalizations is still far from overwhelming. That is the key to understanding whether the county has COVID-19 under control, according to Holt.
Until hospitals are overwhelmed, the hope is the county will be able to manage the growing number of cases.
To compare, the county was seeing only 48.5 cases per day with a 2.7 percent positive rate on June 4. Luckily, deaths continue to remain on the decline as of the latest data. Part of that could lie in the fact that there is a rising number of infections in a younger population.
Kevin Wagner, business analyst for Hillsborough County government health care service, said only four percent of admissions to the healthcare system are coming from COVID-19 cases. Hospitalizations have also remained relatively consistent with 172 total cases. Of those, 134 are in normal hospital beds and 34 were in the ICU.
As a precaution, County Administrator Mike Merrill said that Hillsborough County is setting up approximately 60 more beds at University Village in case there was a spike in hospitalizations. If not, the county can use the space to accommodate the patients who still need assistance, but do not need long-term medical care.
No action was taken Monday afternoon, though there was a brief discussion on whether the county should consider becoming stricter than the governor has ordered. Under the provisions of Governor Ron DeSantis, the county technically has the authority to restrict the way it reopens.
The next EPG meeting is at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon and can be viewed from the county’s YouTube and Facebook pages.