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Coronavirus Cases Surging Now In Pasco

A screenshot of the state dashboard showing that Pasco cases are higher compared to some surrounding counties.
Florida Department of Health

Pasco County is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases. One public health official says the reason is multi-faceted, but includes snowbirds bringing back infections from their home states, and conservative distrust of government and scientists.

Cases of the coronavirus are rising at an alarming rate in Pasco County, a region that was once spared from other surges.

Other rural counties, like Hernando and Polk, are also seeing cases surge.

On Friday, Pasco reported 327 new cases -- the most reported by the county on a single day. It came during a week that also saw a record high of 1,212 cases, which is roughly double the weekly average in Pasco just one month ago.

Though the reasons for the surge are likely multi-faceted, snowbirds could be contributing to the problem, said Jay Wolfson, Associate Vice President for Health Law, Policy and Safety at the University of South Florida.

"There was a lot of in transit to Pasco from folks coming down from Michigan, from Wisconsin from Illinois, Pennsylvania. So I think that's part of it,” Wolfson said.

He said there’s already a large retired population in Pasco County.

Wolfson also said the politicization of science has complicated the issue.

“It's a conservative community. And there's a great deal of distrust in government. There's a tremendous amount of disaffection for whether the FDA and the CDC are doing anything that has value for them.”

“Individuals and families who have been affected by COVID become loud voices for protection, but the bulk of the population is still conservative Republican questioning the role of government and following the advice of some of their political leaders and even some of their religious leaders.”

Meanwhile, leaders and health officials will continue public health campaigns that encourage people to wear masks and physically distance themselves from others.

“It's tough to push back against closely and deeply held beliefs. And I've learned years ago that if I try doing that, all I do is get people to dig their heels into the ground further, and makes it more difficult for them to change their behaviors, even in the face of facts,” Wolfson said.

More than 300 Pasco residents have died from the coronavirus and more than 20,000 deaths have been recorded in the state.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.