TAMPA, Fla. — Ahead of Memorial Day weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties at “high risk” for COVID-19 after the state reported more than 64,000 COVID infections over the past week would have.

“We have had high levels of transmission for some time and they have now adjusted their community levels to high risk. This means that in addition to high levels of transmission, we now have high hospitalization rates. So that’s what the high community levels mean there’s a greater risk of hospitalization and especially full hospitals,” said Dr. Michael Teng, associate professor of medicine at USF Health.

On Friday, the US Department of Health and Human Services reported 2,349 COVID hospitalizations in the state of Florida. Of these, 229 are in ICU, which is approximately 4 percent of the ICU beds used to treat COVID patients.

“What I have heard is that the hospitalizations are not as many intensive care unit hospitalizations as before. So we have a population, we just went through this omicron wave right, so there’s some residual immunity in the public. So we don’t see the really, really severe cases that often, but we still see hospital admissions,” explained Dr. teng

ABC Action News asked Dr. Teng how much more vulnerable people are now that the Bay Area is going into the red category.

“I think this is some of the confusing news coming out of the CDC. What does high risk really mean? In the past few weeks I would say that we have already had a high level of transmission. So those who are immunosuppressed have medical problems, they were already at high risk. Now we are starting to see more transmission between people who have been vaccinated or who you know have been previously infected. So the virus is starting to strengthen a bit,” said Dr Teng

The CDC went down to the county level, putting Hillsborough County at high risk with 224 COVID cases and 14 hospitalizations per 100,000 people. That’s about 3% of patients being treated for COVID.

Pinellas County mirrored those numbers, reporting 246 COVID cases and 14 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.

For high-risk areas, the CDC recommends wearing a mask in public, indoors, and on public transportation and continuing to get tested if you have any symptoms.

“I think whenever you’re in a situation of high transmission rates you should really be aware that you’re trying to prevent transmission and prevent yourself from getting infected because what we know is that there is a there’s a certain percentage of people who get infected who get these long COVID or post-acute infection symptoms, and that’s about 20%, you know. So it’s quite a number of people who are still having symptoms even after they’ve gotten over the infection.” Teng added.

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