Florida COVID-19 crisis
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Florida Breaks Record for Number of Hospitalizations Since COVID-19 Pandemic Began

In a disturbing new trend nobody wanted to see coming, public health officials in Florida revealed that hospitals in the state broke the record for new COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, Aug. 1, with more men and women hospitalized for the illness now than at the height of the pandemic in the United States, before vaccines were available nationwide.

Mike Schneider of the Associated Press has reported that on Sunday, “the Sunshine State had 10,207 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to data reported to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.”

According to the Florida Hospital Association, the previous record was 10,170 hospitalizations from July 23, 2020, more than a half year before vaccinations became available.

Schneider reported that Florida is now “leading the nation in per capita hospitalizations for COVID-19, as hospitals around the state report having to put emergency room visitors in beds in hallways and others document a noticeable drop in the age of patients.”

Health officials have warned that lower-income individuals, people of color and people with conservative political beliefs are still among those most widely affected by the illness.

In an interview with Schneider, Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida, said that the 1,525 adult hospitalizations and 35 pediatric hospitalizations currently averaging in Florida are the highest per capita rate in the nation. Salemi blames the spike in cases on a return to pre-pandemic activities, reductions in social distancing and mask-wearing and the increased transmissibility of the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus.

“The recent rise is both striking and not-at-all surprising,” he said.

According to federal health data released on Saturday, July 30, Florida reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19 — the state’s highest one-day total for new infections since the very start of the pandemic. 

“The figures show how quickly the number of cases is rising in the state,” Schneider said. “Only a day earlier, Florida reported 17,093 new daily cases.”

So far, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused to reconsider new mask mandates in Florida. He has also said no to potential vaccine requirements for residents, and the state Legislature has put in place a number of policies designed to prevent local officials from attempting to impose their own safety restrictions to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“DeSantis on Friday barred school districts from requiring students to wear masks when classes resume next month,” Schneider added.

According to the AP, other troubling developments in the state include: 

  • “Throughout Florida, from Jacksonville to Miami to Tampa, hospitals have become overwhelmed.”
  • “In Tampa, some local hospitals are already having to divert ambulances to different locations because of capacity concerns.”
  • “There has [also] been a startling rise in the number of children with the virus at hospitals in Miami, many of them requiring intensive care.”
  • “In the state capital, COVID-19 hospitalizations reached 70 patients on Sunday at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, a jump of 11 people in two days.”
  • “At the UF Health North hospital emergency room in Jacksonville, COVID-19 patients once again were being put in beds in hallways due to a surge in visits.”

Marsha Tittle, a nursing manager at UF Health North, told The Florida Times-Union that the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel,” when the United States showed signs of emerging from the pandemic once the vaccinations were made available, “turned out to be a train.”

“We’re taking more patients than we normally would take. … My staff is wonderful. You walk out there, they’re going to have smiles on their faces, and they’re doing a great job,” Tittle said. “But there’s a sense of defeat like they’re just defeated.”

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