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Two months tracking COVID-19 in Tampa Bay: Here’s what we know

Compared to other counties, Hillsborough is seeing more younger people with the virus. Pasco and Sarasota counties may need more testing.

TAMPA, Fla. — For the last two months, we've heard a lot about coronavirus projections and what could happen.

Now, we have actual numbers to analyze, so 10News decided to ask an expert.

Dr. Jill Roberts is a professor at USF College of Public Health, and she has reviewed some of the surveillance data from the Florida Department of Health.

Roberts specializes in molecular epidemiology and emerging diseases. She says Tampa Bay counties are showing vastly different trends.

In Hillsborough County, for example, more younger people are coming down with COVID-19. The median age for an infected person is 45.

"Part of that is just demographics. We have more younger people here in Hillsborough County, but I think it's more complicated than that. Those are individuals who are essential workers who are going to work and probably becoming ill when they're going to work," Dr. Roberts explained.

There's also more testing happening in Hillsborough County compared to others in the area, and more testing means you'll inevitably find more cases.

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Population density is another factor, and it could present a challenge for those living in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

"Remember this is something that travels from person to person so even though we're socially distancing, if we have more people living in a small area, it becomes more and more difficult," Dr. Roberts added.

Both Pasco and Sarasota counties have a relatively low number of cases. Dr. Roberts actually sees that as a red flag, especially in Sarasota, where the death rate is higher. At the time this article was written on May 7, 2020, Pasco County was reporting 277 cases with eight deaths. 

Sarasota had 388 cases with 49 deaths. 

Dr. Roberts emphasized the importance of testing. More data helps lawmakers make better decisions about getting back to normal.

"I'd like to see a lot more data come out of Sarasota because we have a high risk population there," she said. "If you're opening restaurants and reopening tourist areas and beaches and things, we want to see data coming from that area."

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