TAMPA, Fla. – Parts of Tampa Bay the area is now showing high levels of COVID-19 spread, a leading expert at USF Health said Tuesday.
According to Dr. Jason Salemi, who analyzes COVID-19 data in Florida for USF Health, the CDC typically updates its weekly community COVID-19 spread map on Thursdays, indicating areas with low, medium, and high infection rates.
Salemi believes that while the current map shows a medium level of spread throughout Tampa Bay when the new map is released this week, it will show that the virus is spreading at a high level in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco amter.
“If you were just gathering this different information about Hillsborough and the Tampa Bay area in general, we would be right on the border, but we would be at the high level,” he said.
This comes after nine weeks in a row with increased COVID-19 cases in Florida.
The average number of daily cases increased by more than 50 percent in the last week, from about 5,600 a day to about 8,600, which is the highest number of daily cases since February. In addition, about 1,700 adults are currently hospitalized with COVID in Florida.
Dr. Salemi said, however, that this is where context matters.
“We are not near pandemic heights. So when I said there were currently about 1,700 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19, at our peak in the pandemic it was 17,000, not 1,700,” Salemi said.
Salemi believes that previous infections from the Delta and Omicron waves, along with vaccinations, lead to greater immunity.
“A lot of people have previous infections now and recent past infections, and a lot of people have been vaccinated. And fortunately, a large number of people have also been boosted,” Salemi said. “That’s why when we see these increased cases, the increases in admissions have been less pronounced. So the same increase in cases does not cause the same amount of serious illness.”
Salemi said that because older people and people with compromised immune systems are still at high risk for serious infections, it is important for people living in high-spread areas to follow the CDC guidelines, which include wearing masks indoors.