Florida hospitals overflow because the state battles one of many worst Covid outbreaks in the USA
A nurse checks in a Covid-19 patient at the Tampa General Hospital Covid ward in Tampa, Florida.
Michael S. Williamson | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Dr. David Wein, an emergency doctor at Tampa General Hospital in Florida, said the Covid-19 outbreak there was the worst he and his colleagues have seen since the pandemic began.
In Hillsborough County, where Tampa General Hospital is located, the number of new Covid cases has averaged around 1,200 a day, according to Johns Hopkins University. That is more than double the national rate when you factor in the population.
Covid patients are occupying nearly 200 of the 1,041 beds at Tampa General Hospital as of Tuesday, according to the hospital that supplies West Florida and the greater Tampa Bay area. 61 patients are in the intensive care unit. The surge in patients, most of whom are unvaccinated, weighs on the hospital’s 8,000+ staff, Wein said.
“Everyone is working at full capacity and more, and it feels like we’ve been like this for a long time,” Wein said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. He added that the hospital was running out of nurses. “Right now it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Hospitals across Florida are now being pushed to their limits as intensive care beds fill up and providers struggle to find enough staff to care for patients as the state battles one of the worst Covid-19 outbreaks in the country, caused by the highly contagious delta variant is fueled.
Florida’s surge in cases comes as Republican Governor Ron DeSantis continues to oppose calls by the Biden government and state advocacy groups to enforce mask mandates and other pandemic-related measures to contain the massive outbreak. He signed an executive order and bill in May that lifted all Covid restrictions across the state and permanently prevented local officials from enacting new ones starting July 1.
In late July, DeSantis issued a controversial executive order that blocked mask mandates in state schools, overruled two counties that required face covers for their students, and defied masking recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The DeSantis office did not immediately comment on this article, and the Florida Department of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The cases have continued to rise. Florida’s latest Covid data, released only once a week on Fridays, shows that the seven-day average of new cases hit a new record of 19,250 per day for the past week, up from around 1,500 in June and nearly 18% of the time New cases in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. On a per capita basis Florida is the second highest in the country with 90 new infections per day per 100,000 inhabitants – behind Louisiana with 116 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
DeSantis has blamed the Biden government’s immigration policy for the new wave of Covid infections.
DeSantis’ policies are “completely irresponsible,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization’s collaborative center for national and global health law. He said policies threaten to slow the nation’s progress in ending the pandemic, especially as schools reopen and employers start bringing workers back to the office this fall.
“With a highly contagious Delta variant that is raging through the state, the people were largely abandoned by their state government,” said Gostin. “America is about to return to normal. This could be a major setback for our national Covid response.”
Hospital beds are now filling up, with 86% of inpatient beds in use, compared to 74% nationwide on Wednesday, according to data from the Department of Health and Social Affairs. In the US, around 10% of all hospital beds are used to treat Covid patients, while almost 28% of beds in Florida are occupied by them – the highest of any state, the data shows.
Just over 90% of the state’s intensive care beds were occupied on Wednesday, with nearly half of those occupied by Covid patients, according to HHS data.
Florida death toll is also rising, with a seven-day average of 88 daily Covid deaths, 51% more than last week, but below the record high of more than 180 deaths per day in late January, according to Hopkins data.
According to NBC News, the federal government is now sending 200 ventilators, 100 breathing devices, and other related supplies to the state to help Florida health officials respond to record hospital admissions. DeSantis said he was unaware of the federal allocation, but local and state health officials requested equipment from the national supply, according to NBC News.