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As projected COVID-19 peak nears, digital tool tracks Florida hospital, ICU bed availability

The Center Square – The Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 webpage updates COVID-19’s statewide progression in confirmed cases several times a day, with tabs for testing numbers, cases by county and cases by zip code.

Google’s Community Mobility Report and UnaCast’s Social Distancing Scoreboard document people’s movements by location, displaying in data how the novel coronavirus has changed life since early March.

Floridians have another digital tool to track COVID-19 and the struggle to mitigate it with the debut last week of the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration’s (AHCA) data dashboard. It has four tabs showing available hospital beds by county, available beds by hospital within each county, available intensive care unit (ICU) beds by county, and available ICU beds by hospital within each county.

The dashboard provides real-time, self-reported bed availability by all Florida hospitals, AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew said, with hospitals routinely filing the updates under Florida’s Emergency Status System rules.

As of 1:30 p.m. Monday, the AHCA dashboard showed 34,263 of the state’s 60,214 hospital beds were occupied, with 43 percent – or 25,950 beds – listed as available.

Florida Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said Sunday the state is prepared for a predicted spike in hospital and ICU bed demand in coming weeks.

“I have full confidence we’ll be able to meet the ICU capacity,” Moskowitz told WPLG-TV in Miami. “We feel we’ll be able to meet the capacity as far as the beds, or the potential issue with ventilators.”

The Institute for Health Metrics & Evaluation (IHME), a University of Washington research center advising the White House, last week published a state-by-state model indicating COVID-19 would peak in Florida on May 3, when as many as 174 people a day could be dying from COVID-19. IHME forecast 6,766 Floridians would succumb by Aug. 4.

In an updated model released Sunday, IHME projected COVID-19 now will peak April 21, with a projection of 242 deaths that day. IHME now forecasts 6,770 Floridians could die by Aug.4. 

IHME’s original model also predicted state hospitals would not run out of hospital beds or ICU beds. The new projections, however, show something different.

According to IHME, Florida will need 13,168 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients at peak hospital resource use on April 21, including 2,464 ICU beds. Florida should have about 20,000 hospital beds available, but probably only 1,695 ICU beds.

 Moskowitz said the state has purchased 4,300 hospital beds in recent weeks so hospitals could convert existing beds to ICU beds. It is uncertain whether those beds are showing up on daily availability reports filed by hospitals on AHCA’s dashboard or in IHME’s model.

As of 1:30 p.m. Monday, in south Florida’s three counties, Miami-Dade County reported the highest hospital bed occupancy rate with 40 percent – 3,156 of 7,787 beds – listed as available.

Broward County hospitals reported an available rate of 44.7 percent, with 2,907 of 6502 beds unoccupied, and Palm Beach County hospitals registered 48 percent – or 1,954 of 4,031 beds – as available.

Hospitals in other counties with urban centers report available rates in the 40-47.5 percent range, between Hillsborough’s 40.5 percent – 1,617 of 3,993 beds – and Volusia’s 47.5 percent – 739 of 1,555 beds – listed as available.

Smaller and rural counties show some of the scantest capacities. Sumter County hospitals, including those in The Villages area, report less than 9 percent – 16 of 185 beds – available.

Of 6,135 adult ICU beds listed by hospitals within each county, as of Monday afternoon, about 40 percent, 2,437 ICU beds, were available, and 3,698 were not, according to the dashboard.

Polk County hospitals reported a 26.8 percent availability, with only 41 of 153 adult ICU beds available.

Hospitals in counties with urban centers report adult ICU availability ranging from Duval’s 48 percent – 207 of 430 beds – to Broward’s 33 percent with 182 of 549 ICU beds listed as available.

As of Monday afternoon, the Florida Department of Health reported 13,324 cases of COVID-19 – including 236 – and 1,592 hospitalizations.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. The disease has caused at least 10,720 deaths in the U.S., with more than 362,000 confirmed cases in the country. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.

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