TAMPA, Fla. — The majority of Florida is still at high risk for COVID-19 transmission, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and all of Tampa Bay is under that same category.
"There are a lot of real reasons to try and keep this under control if we can," said Dr. Tom Unnasch, a university professor in the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida.
Since the Memorial Day weekend, Unnasch said cases are rising at about 10,000 per day, but the numbers are likely higher due to many positive at-home test kits going unreported.
"We don't capture those [at-home positive] case numbers. That's gonna make it a little bit hard for us to actually figure out what's going on with this variant," said Dr. Jill Roberts with USF Health.
Unnasch said unvaccinated people, the elderly and those with immunocompromised conditions remain most vulnerable to severe illness or even death. With cases remaining high and variants making the virus more transmissible, experts said the majority of people will have or contract COVID-19.
However, the majority of people who are vaccinated or up to date with their booster shots are likely to experience a bad cold or milder symptoms, they said.
"This is something we have to deal with and incorporate into our normal lives, but incorporate into our normal lives with some precautions," Unnasch said.
He also said he advises people to practice the same precautions health experts have urged throughout the pandemic: Vaccinations, boosters, masking in crowded spaces and staying home when ill.
The precautions have the ability to not only reduce the spread of the virus but prevent more dangerous variants from emerging.
"People want to get back out there, they want to do their activities, we're social beings, we want to interact with other people," Roberts said. "You can do that. Just take the precautions that are necessary."
So far, the state has seen 67,756 cases in the CDC's latest seven-day metrics. In total, there have been 6,493,977 cumulative cases and 75,981 deaths, according to the Florida Department of Health's latest data.
Experts noted hospitalizations and cases are not near levels when the omicron variant first emerged.
At Tampa General Hospital, there have been 61 COVID-19 admissions and 16 ICU beds in use for COVID-19 patients, as of July 6.
BayCare Health System has 303 patients admitted to its 15 acute-care hospitals as of July 6, according to a spokesperson. The number is far less than last summer's peak of more than 1,100 patients.
HCA West Florida hospitals have seen an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations since May 1 but remain well below previous levels, according to a representative.