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Hillsborough County outpacing the state with rise in COVID-19 infections

Doctors say vaccines are helping keep case numbers down, but not enough people have gotten the shot.

TAMPA, Fla — COVID-19 is back in the spotlight in Hillsborough County as the number of new infections continues to rise. 

"The county has seen a 60 percent jump in COVID cases in the past month," Dr. Jason Salemi with USF Public Health said.

The epidemiologist continues monitoring the forecasts for COVID-19 in Florida. He says Hillsborough County has outpaced the state because of its high transmission rate.

"The most recent weekly report, the state was at 8 percent test positivity. Hillsborough was at 10.7 percent," Salemi said.

All of this happening despite rising vaccination numbers.

"We've been here before. We've been here during the summer surge [and] in the winter surge. I'm concerned anytime we see an increase, because it's not just cases, it's the fact that we're also seeing hospitalizations go up even though a significant proportion of our seniors are already vaccinated," Salemi said.

Doctors say vaccines are helping keep case numbers down, but not enough people have gotten the shot.

"In Hillsborough the vaccination rate is about 40 percent, so 60 percent of the people out there still haven't been vaccinated. There's still a pretty decent chance that if we relaxed right now, we would go straight back up again," Dr. Tom Unnasch with USF Public Health said.

After running testing swabs in his lab, Unnasch estimates two out of three COVID-19 cases in Florida are variants of the virus. 

Large events like the Florida State Fair that just started in Hillsborough County could give room for the variants to spread, but the good news is, the event is outdoors.

"Everything that we do like that adds a little bit of risk. Right now we're at this really touchy balancing point. We just don't want to give it any advantage to get it's momentum going again," Unnasch said.

Doctors say the best way to help stop the spread is getting vaccinated. They also suggest people continue wearing a mask and social distancing in large crowds, even if they've gotten the shot.