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On a record-setting day, Tampa Bay sees more young people contracting COVID-19

A 27-year-old man from Polk County died Thursday from the coronavirus as the number of national, state and local cases continued to rise.

Records were set Thursday — none of them good.

The U.S. logged more than 2 million cases of the coronavirus. Florida saw the highest single-day number of new COVID-19 patients since the state first started reporting cases on March 1.

And in the Tampa Bay region, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties saw the highest single-day number of coronavirus cases local officials have ever reported as the pandemic stretched into its fourth month.

This week’s alarming spike renewed fears of a second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic. New data also shows that the virus is affecting more than just the immunocompromised and the elderly.

Related: Florida sees highest single-day number of new coronavirus cases

In the bay area, a 27-year-old Polk County man died on Thursday from COVID-19. He was one of fewer than 20 people under the age of 34 to die from the virus in Florida. But in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, public health officials say the number of positive cases in young people is on the rise.

"I really think the community is at a critical turning point,’’ Marissa Levine, director for the Center for Leadership in Public Health Practice at the University of South Florida, told Hillsborough leaders on Thursday. "And I think we have a chance to prevent a second wave.''

Meanwhile Gov. Ron DeSantis is moving forward with reopening the state. Bars and restaurants are now open to patrons. People can go to the gym, the hair salon, or to the beach. For the most part, masks are optional.

On Thursday, the governor announced Florida’s K-12 schools would come back in full in the fall.

Levine emphasized the need for the public to continue social distancing, wearing face coverings in close quarters, avoiding large crowds and continue to wash their hands and follow other cleanliness guidelines.

“It is clear that if we can get more people to do that regularly, then in all likelihood we can prevent a second wave,’’ she said. “If we wait too long it could be too late.’’

Related: COVID-19 outbreak spreads in Pinellas County jail

Florida on Thursday added 1,698 new coronavirus cases, the most in any day since the pandemic reached the state. The total number of coronavirus cases in Florida has reached 69,069.

Health officials have said the increase in cases is because of an increase in testing. But watchdog groups say that the rise is due to more than that ⁠— for example, the number of positive tests per 100,000 people is also going up.

Deaths also rose by 49 in Florida, bringing the statewide total to 2,938. There were 229 new hospitalizations, one of the top single-day streaks ever logged.

Adrian Delgado, 27, from Polk County, was one of those new recorded deaths. Young people dying from coronavirus is rare ⁠— in Florida, only 1 percent of all deaths are from people age 34 and younger. The Polk County Medical Examiner didn’t say if Delgado had any other history of illness or complications.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri noted an outbreak in the county jail, with 18 positive tests coming back in one day.

Related: Hillsborough nears ‘crossroads’ in pandemic, say health officials

The cases are going up," said Dr. Douglas Holt, the director of the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, at Thursday’s county meeting. “But we have not reached the state where we need to step back as long as we do what we need to do to reduce the spread.”

Holt and other health officials said Hillsborough is at a crossroads, especially for younger residents in the 18-35 age group. The percentage of new cases of people under 34-years-old has nearly doubled since mid-May to 46 percent, he said.

Related: Column: Millennials, let's skip brunch a while longer

Between May 13 and June 10, the percentage of children 14 and younger testing positive for COVID-19 quadrupled from 2 to 8 percent. Among people age 15 to 24, the rate grew from 4.5 percent to 15 percent and among people age 24 to 35 the positive results grew from 15 percent to 23 percent.

Overall, the percentage of positive cases among all test results remains below 5 percent, but in recent weeks health officials have been tracking a slight trend upward.

“We’d like to see it going down,” Holt said. “We are seeing some more community-based spread."

Related: Busch Gardens reopens to a light, sweaty crowd wearing face masks

Dr. Angus Jameson, the medical director for Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services, reiterated at Thursday’s Pinellas County Commission meeting that there is no cure for the virus and doctors are still learning new things about it every day.

Jameson said it’s important for the public to wear masks and continue taking precautions to help stop the spread of the airborne disease.

“Our primary tool is to stay away from one another," Jameson said. “We are seeing more cases in younger people.”

The day before, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Tuesday called out younger people for not taking the pandemic seriously enough.

A COVID-19 vaccine is likely a year or more away. So local officials debated what other measures they should take to help stop the rising infections. In Pinellas, commissioners wondered if they should recruit celebrities — like new Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady — and social media influencers to spread a pro-mask message.

In Tampa, Mayor Jane Castor said the data shows a clear need for more outreach to convince people to get tested for the coronavirus.

“This brings back up to the surface to do another round of marketing our encouragement for people to go out and get tested," she said. “From the data I see, there are fewer individuals signing up at the sites.”

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