CDC finally confirms Tampa Bay is at “high” risk for COVID-19


CDC finally confirms Tampa Bay is at "high" risk for COVID-19

Tampa Bay has officially — and finally — been classified as “high” risk for COVID-19, federal health officials reported Thursday.

Federal guidelines recommend that all residents, regardless of medical condition, wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public spaces in 10 Florida counties, including Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco.

The announcement corrects an error that remained unchanged for almost a week – during which Florida recorded more than 64,000 infections.

Related: How the CDC’s Tampa Bay and Florida COVID alert system is failing

The Miami Herald reported May 19 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered an error on its website that resulted in three counties in South Florida being listed as “moderate” status instead of “high” risk. The correction appeared as a footnote at the bottom of the CDC website.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that the same bug also affected Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties, which hit the CDC threshold for being at “high” risk but still classified as “moderate” according to the federal COVID-19 alert system were classified.

CDC data used in this calculation showed no infections were detected in Tampa Bay from May 13-19. But that was wrong: All three counties had exceeded the 7-day case rate of 200 infections per 100,000 people to justify a “high” risk, according to state and federal data released May 20.

Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco hit the other mark that determines a “high” risk of infection: The region’s hospitals exceeded more than 10 hospitalizations for COVID-19 per 100,000 people.

Related: Tampa Bay has ‘high’ COVID levels, masks recommended indoors

A CDC spokesman said the agency does not update its alert system daily, but instead updates it once a week every Thursday.

Public health experts also criticized the CDC’s alert system — the revised guidelines introduced in February — for relying on COVID-19 hospitalizations, which are a lagging indicator of community transmission. Florida has seen nine straight weeks of rising infections, but it could be days or weeks before those infected get sick enough to need a hospital bed.

Everyone should be wearing a well-fitting mask indoors by now, University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi told the Times Monday, “but we’re waiting too long for community spread to get too high, and we’re waiting for that.” Hospitalization trigger number (universal masking recommendation).”

The other counties with “high” levels of COVID-19 are Polk, Sarasota, Alachua, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe counties. Another 19 counties have “intermediate” levels of COVID-19, including Hernando and Manatee counties.

Related: Is This the End of Public COVID Testing Sites in Tampa Bay?

In counties with “moderate” levels of COVID-19 in the community, residents at high risk of severe infection are advised to wear a mask in public. Those at high risk include those with pre-existing conditions, the elderly, and those who have not yet been fully vaccinated.

Residents in “high” and “moderate” risk areas should ensure their immunizations and booster shots are up to date, per CDC guidelines. They should also get tested if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

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How to get tested

Tampa Bay: The Times can help you locate free, public COVID-19 testing sites in the Bay Area.

Florida: The Department of Health has a website that lists testing sites across the state. Some information may be out of date.

The USA: The Department of Health and Human Services has a website that can help you find a testing site.

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How to get vaccinated

The COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 years and older and booster shots for eligible recipients will be administered at doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores and public vaccination centers. Many allow appointments to be booked online. To find a location near you:

Find a site: Visit to find vaccination centers in your zip code.

More help: Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Helpline.

Phone: 800-232-0233. Help is available in English, Spanish and other languages.

TTY: 888-720-7489

Information and access telephone for the disabled: Call 888-677-1199 or email [email protected].

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OMICRON VARIANT: Omicron has changed our knowledge of COVID. Here’s the latest on how the infectious variant of COVID-19 is affecting masks, vaccines, boosters and quarantine.

CHILDREN AND VACCINES: Do you have questions about your child’s vaccination? Here are some answers.

BOOSTER SHOTS: Confused About Which COVID Booster To Get? This guide will help you.

BOOSTER QUESTIONS: Are there any side effects? why do i need it Here are the answers to your questions.

PROTECTING SENIORS: This is how seniors can protect themselves from the virus.

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