TAMPA — Hillsborough County wants people to take advantage of its network of free coronavirus test sites, but parents shouldn’t bring their children for testing just out of curiosity, says a Florida health official.
That was the message delivered to Hillsborough County commissioners Thursday afternoon as they met as emergency managers responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Commission met after the latest state data release showed Hillsborough County had added 197 new cases bringing the total to 36,354. There were three additional deaths which brings the number of fatal COVID-19 cases in the county to 545. Total hospitalizations stood at 1,656, an increase of 10 patents over the previous 24 hours.
Hillsborough’s two-week rate of positive test results dropped from 8.68 percent to 7.27 percent over the past seven days and the county case rate also is declining and now is 92 per 100,000 residents.
“We are making progress,’' said Dr. Douglas Holt, state Health Department director for Hillsborough County, but he later warned there is “still a relatively high level of transmission of (COVID-19) in our community.’‘
The county was expected to pass 100,000 total tests administered at its nine public sites at some point this week. The county began its testing program March 25 at Raymond James Stadium. Overall, the county and private providers have administered more than 348,000 diagnostic tests, with the county conducting 28 percent of that total.
But demand for tests has continued to decline, and has dropped 19 percent since Aug. 10. The county sites conducted less than 4,000 tests last week and had done just 915 tests the first two days of this week and had 2,200 scheduled for the week.
County emergency management director Timothy Dudley encouraged people to use the public sites that offer free testing to any Hillsborough County resident seeking a diagnosis. Residents must pre-register by visiting the county web site or by calling the Hillsborough County call center at (888) 513-6321.
Commissioner Kimberly Overman asked if parents should consider having their children tested in light of data showing a small sample size, but a higher positivity rate among pediatric cases. The county has about 30 new pediatric cases daily and the positive test result rate was 14.2 percent average over the past two weeks.
“I personally would not recommend a parent have their child tested just for curiosity sake,’' said Holt.
They should be tested, he said, if they display symptoms or had been exposed to someone in their household who did have coronavirus.
Overman’s question came four days before Hillsborough County public schools begin in-person teaching.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“I think it’s very dangerous (to open schools) under these conditions,’' said Commissioner Pat Kemp. “I think unfortunately that’s going to put community spread again at our doorstep.”
Holt said the public test sites would remain available, but eventually the county and state would have to transition the effort to the existing health care system.
“This is not going to happen now. We just opened schools,’‘ said Holt. “I’m not advocating any significant change, but we will need to evolve over the next several months.’'
• • •
Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage
HOW CORONAVIRUS IS SPREADING IN FLORIDA: Find the latest numbers for your county, city or zip code.
GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.
HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips
We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.