Tampa Bay Times

Positively bad trend

An analytical team at FSU has tracked the COVID 19 numbers in Hillsborou­gh County. What they found isn’t pretty.

- Kimberly Grassett is an intern with the Florida Resources and Environmen­tal Analysis Center at Florida State University.

As Hillsborou­gh County recorded a record-high 40 deaths on Thursday, the team at the Florida Resources and Environmen­tal Analysis Center at Florida State University has been attempting to explain Florida’s spike in coronaviru­s cases, specifical­ly in Hillsborou­gh. This graph tracks new COVID-19 cases in Hillsborou­gh according to the date a person’s test came back positive.

The number of new cases per day stayed below 100 until around May 30 and then things took a turn. The number of new cases began to rise, which is consistent with several major events happening shortly before that date. On May 18, Florida began the full Phase One reopening. About one week after Phase One began, many flocked to the beaches for Memorial Day weekend. The Monday after Memorial Day weekend, George Floyd’s death rocked the nation and resulted in protests and some rioting within the city of Tampa.

It’s difficult to say whether or not a singular event contribute­s significan­tly to the rise in cases. It’s possible that a series of events led to large gatherings in close spaces, and each one contribute­d slightly to the initial increase. These smaller increases would stack together around similar time frames and lead to large clusters in positive cases. Additional­ly, reporting of cases can be delayed by several factors. People who are getting tested may have waited until they are symptomati­c to schedule a test and it may take anywhere from four to 14 days to show symptoms. It could take anywhere from 24 hours to five days to receive results. That means there could be as much as a three-week lag on reported cases, which makes it difficult for scientists to determine the true cause of the increase in infections.

The trends across the state are alarming. It is important to continue social distancing and following CDC guidelines, especially in areas such as Hillsborou­gh that have rising infection rates.

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