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While other areas consider easing restrictions, Hillsborough County leaders 'very worried'

The latest dashboard summary shows COVID cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations all in the red – all trending in the wrong direction.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — While some areas consider easing their covid-19 rules, Hillsborough county is sounding the alarm and urging people not to let their guard down.

That comes after the county’s most recent medical update showing an increase in COVID-19 cases and the positivity rate, despite widespread vaccinations.

“I’m very worried now,” said Commission Chair Pat Kemp after a presentation from the county’s health leaders.

Hillsborough Commissioners say the charts don’t lie.

The latest dashboard summary shows COVID cases, positivity rates and hospitalizations all in the red – all trending in the wrong direction.

“I don’t remember a time when I’ve seen everything in red, honestly,” said Kemp. “So, that was very concerning to me.”

There was some good news.

The county’s health director says Hillsborough’s vaccination rate is moving in the right direction. And as more people get the shot there are far fewer cases of COVID being reported among those 65 and older.

Unfortunately, at the same time, there is a disturbing trend showing more young people, not only contracting the virus, but getting sick.

“We are still seeing the higher cases in the 18 to 24 group, and the 14 to 17 age, and the “school-age” groups of individuals,” said Kevin Wagner with Hillsborough’s healthcare services department.

When asked whether the more contagious variants are behind the surge, health experts say at this point that doesn’t appear to be the culprit.

“As of right now, there is no impact that the variants we can tie to our increased cases,” said Dr. Doug Holt, Director of the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County.

Commissioners say that’s also concerning, because if the virus is spreading among kids without the variants here, they wonder what might happen if the a more contagious strain does appear.

For that reason and others, county leaders say--at least in Hillsborough--it’s not the right time to be easing restrictions.

On Wednesday, Hillsborough commissioners voted to extend the county’s state of emergency order. That means, for now, the mask mandate and other local rules remain in place.

“It’s younger people that are now getting hit with it. Not only transmission but getting more seriously ill,” said Kemp.

“Let’s make sure we’re doing everything we can,” said Overman, “And not let our guard down.”

RELATED: Pasco County lifts indoor mask mandate, but schools will still require face coverings

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