This week's COVID-19 update from the Florida Department of Health yields hope that the toll of the delta variant may have peaked in Polk County and Florida. During the last week, 6,174 new infections were reported in Polk, a solid drop from last week's record 7,510 new cases. The testing positivity rate continued its slide for a second week, falling below 20% for the first time in five weeks.

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Statewide, 129,240 new infections were recorded, down from last week's 151,749, according to the weekly update released this evening. The statewide average rate of testing this week was 15.2%, compared with 16.8% last week.

In this week’s update, which covers Aug. 26 through Sept. 2, Polk continues to lag Florida in several other key metrics:

  • Cases per 100,000 population: Polk, 857.9; Florida, 588.1
  • Overall case positivity: Polk, 25.3%; Florida, 20.8%
  • Vaccinations – Age 12+ residents receiving at least one dose of vaccine: Polk, 61%; Florida, 69%

Still, all of those metrics improved over last week's report. The rate of vaccination in Polk has slowly increased, jumping two percentage points over last week.

In all, 114,059 infections have been reported in Polk County since March 2020, according to the DOH. Statewide, there have been 3,308,916 cases.

Despite the statewide decrease in cases, the number of deaths increased this week. The state added 433 deaths for a cumulative 46,324. Last week's figure was 389 new COVID-19 deaths.

The state is not currently releasing death figures for each county, as it did prior to June of this year.

There are signs of a possible peak at Lakeland Regional Health, even though the hospital is slammed with 10 times the number of COVID patients it was treating as recently as late June.

LRH on Thursday reported it had 409 patients who had tested positive for COVID-19, compared with 442 Monday and 443 a week earlier. COVID patients in ICU declined from 65 to 60 between Monday and Thursday. Those on ventilators increased from 57 to 59, a new high. 

Even with the reduction in overall numbers, COVID patients still fill nearly half the hospital's 864 beds.

The still-high volume of COVID patients has compelled hospital administrators to carve out new space for patients and offer financial incentives to staff to work extra shifts.

Statewide COVID-19 hospitalizations were at 14,279 today, down from Thursday's figure of 14,682, the Florida Hospital Association reported.

LRH has begun posting graphics to social media showing the proportion of its COVID patients that had or had not received vaccinations. The most recent graphic, posted Thursday, showed that 85% of that day’s COVID-19 patients had not been vaccinated. Unvaccinated people accounted for 92% of COVID patients in intensive care and 91.5% of those on ventilators.

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