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'Get vaccinated, get tested': COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Manatee, Sarasota counties

Both counties were just shy of a thousand new cases after a steady increase for a 4th consecutive reported week.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — After nearly 1,000 new COVID-19 cases were reported last week, Manatee County health officials have said now is the time to get vaccinated and continue to take precautions against COVID-19. New coronavirus cases driven by the delta variant are rising across the country and the state of Florida.

According to the Florida Health Department's latest numbers, both Manatee and Sarasota counties have seen more COVID-19 cases. Data from the week of July 16 to 22, which was released on Friday, showed Sarasota County with 899 new cases and an 11.9 percent positivity rate. Manatee County had 998 new cases with a 15.4 percent positivity rate. The State of Florida needs a 5 percent positivity rate sustained over 2 weeks to consider COVID-19 under control.

"We are seeing upticks in COVID infections across-the-board, everywhere, whether it's the county, state or the country," said Christopher Tittel, Florida Department of Health-Manatee County.

RELATED: Florida has 'no plans' to resume daily COVID-19 reports

"If we are not protecting others with a mask from what we are putting out and we are not protecting ourselves from what's hanging out there potentially coming in then this diseases will continue to spread," Tittel said. 

Officials with Nomi Health, which runs a number of testing and vaccination sites for the state said more testing happening too and the results are pushing up the positivity rate.

"It's probably a combination of the easing of restrictions, the easy spreadability of the COVID Delta variant and also the fact that we haven't reached herd immunity through vaccinations," said Dr. June Steely, Nomi Health.

"It's basically a numbers game. When you have the numbers increasing as much as they are for people who are just getting it, you're also going to see an increase in numbers of people who will get very sick and hospitalized and die also," Steely said.

There is also the issue of a decline in vaccination rates and misinformation about the vaccine which is driving vaccine hesitancy.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 99.5 percent of the people getting sick and dying from COVID-19 over the past six months were unvaccinated, 

"I don't know what more you can say about the effectiveness of this vaccine than that it's going to help prevent you from getting sick and possibly dying from this disease," Tittel said.

Several public and political figures have done an about-face on their position on vaccination and health officials are urging folks who have not been vaccinated to do so as a matter of urgency.

"Once you have severe COVID it's too late to get vaccinated, you need to get vaccinated before you get it, that's the way it works," Steely said. 

The health experts say the vaccine protects one from severe illnesses linked to Covid-19 and helps gets the state toward herd immunity. 

They advise to also keep wearing masks in indoor settings, public spaces and crowded places as well as washing hands and staying home if sick.

Visit the Florida Health Dept website to find a vaccination site near you.

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