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COVID-19 Cases Spiking Again; Hillsborough, Pinellas Join For Public Awareness Campaign

New coronavirus cases are spiking across the state, with Florida recording another high for new coronavirus cases reported in a single day on Thursday.

Hillsborough County officials are trying to get the word out that we still need to keep our distance from each other.

Members of Hillsborough's Emergency Policy Group were told by health officials that the county is "nearing the crossroads," with the number of positive cases in people ages 18 to 35 increasing over the past two weeks as restrictions ease.

Marissa Levine, a public health specialist with the University of South Florida College of Public Health, told the group it's up to everyone to prevent the rise from becoming a second wave of infections. That, she said, includes getting younger people to realize they can become sick.

"I remember being younger and feeling invincible too," Levine said. "But we need them to help protect the more vulnerable. Otherwise, we'll see our hospitalization numbers go up, and the deaths increase also."

The Florida Department of Health reported 147 more people tested positive for COVID-19 in Hillsborough County Thursday - 34 more than the previous high for the county, which was recorded Monday.

Even though the numbers are rising, health officials told members of the group they will not need to start closing businesses again - if people wear face masks and practice social distancing.

And a new public awareness campaign will soon be underway, said Eric Eisenberg, dean of the USF College of Arts and Sciences.

"We're also working with Pinellas County to open a regional social media campaign, recognizing that people move back and forth between the counties," Eisenberg said. "We're going to use local opinion leaders to get the word out. We're trying to work with all of the pro sports franchises to get messages out."

Emergency Policy Group members thought enough of the spike in numbers to resume meeting twice a week. They had recently cut back to one day a week - Thursday afternoons - but voted to reinstate Monday afternoon meetings beginning next week.

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This chart shows how younger people are the majority of COVID-19 cases
Florida Department of Health /
The Florida Channel
This chart shows how younger people are the majority of COVID-19 cases

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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.