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Coronavirus continues widespread transmission, says Florida health official

TAMPA — While the number of COVID-19 cases continues its descent in Hillsborough County, the infection rate still indicates “active and widespread community transmission continuing,” said the state’s top health official in Hillsborough County.

The daily average of new cases for the prior seven days had dropped to about 390, and the rate of positive diagnostic tests was around 7 percent, said Dr. Douglas Holt, director of the state Health Department for Hillsborough County, during his bi-weekly briefing with commissioners on Wednesday.

Holt’s comments came before the latest data release showed 517 new cases in Hillsborough County over the prior 24 hours, bringing the total caseload to 107,513.

Commission Chair Pat Kemp asked if there had been a bump in cases tied to the recent Super Bowl 55 in Tampa, but Holt said it was too early to provide a definitive answer. Holt also couldn’t say when the state might expand its list of people targeted for the COVID-19 vaccine. Right now, the focus is on people 65 and older, front-line health care workers and people with underlying health conditions.

The county has an estimated 200,000 residents who are 65 and older. More than 110,000 residents have received vaccinations as of Feb. 12, about 30 percent of which were done by private providers. About half of those residents have received both doses of the vaccine.

The county’s program to administer vaccines at senior apartments, mobile home parks and faith-based locations has reached 14,473 people and the county plans to begin at-home visits to vaccinate homebound seniors this week.

Holt acknowledged the current vaccination rate of means “it’s going to take us months to change that’’ and reach all senior citizens who want to receive the inoculation.

“What can change and will change that is the supply of the vaccine,” said Holt. “It’s been very disappointing in the last almost two months that we’re essentially getting the same amount we got in the first week in January.”

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