The Center Square – Hospitalizations are increasing and the median age of Floridians testing positive is rising, both indicators of an accelerating COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials warn.
Intensive care unit (ICU) capacity was full at 56 of Florida’s 325 hospitals Wednesday, with the Florida Department of Health (DOH) reporting a statewide ICU capacity of 16 percent. Many hospitals have suspended elective surgeries.
According to DOH’s COVID-19 dashboard Wednesday, 9,989 positive tests were reported Tuesday, boosting the number of cases in the state since March 1st to 223,783, with 3,889 dead and 16,758 hospitalized by the disease.
Several Orange, Broward and Miami-Dade county hospitals reported no ICU capacity to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) this week.
Seminole County health officials fear local hospitals, operating at 13 percent bed capacity Tuesday, could be overwhelmed if COVID-19 further accelerates, as expected, within 10 days of Fourth of July weekend.
Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami-Dade’s largest public hospital, reported 9 percent ICU capacity Tuesday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, after announcing DOH would send 100 nurses to Jackson Health to alleviate manpower shortages, said Tuesday that Florida hospitals have “abundant capacity” to absorb spikes in hospitalization and ICU demand.
DeSantis dodged questions about why DOH’s COVID-19 dashboard is not reporting daily hospital admissions for all 67 counties.
DOH does not publicly reveal how many hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients in its updates, reporting only hospital admissions since March. AHCA reports daily hospital bed capacity.
The governor’s office told the Miami Herald this week it would incorporate daily hospitalization data into DOH’s updates but did not say when. As of Wednesday, it had not done so.
State Sen. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, said if DOH released daily hospitalization data, it would show an undercount discrepancy with those already reported by Miami-Dade County.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez ordered in April that all county hospitals publicly post admissions, ICU capacity and ventilator inventory daily.
“These games with public records – they won’t release it unless there’s public pressure or a lawsuit filed. It’s infuriating,” Rodríguez told reporters Tuesday. “I suspect one of the concerns is we are going to see a divergence in numbers. That’s what I think.”
DeSantis has attempted to soothe fears over the COVID-19 surge by attributing some of the increase to a significant boost in testing and noted the median age of those testing positive in June declined to the mid-30s, with many asymptomatic, after being in the 50s in April and May.
That’s no longer true, incoming Senate Minority Leader Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, said, noting Tuesday was the first time since DOH began reporting the median age of new cases that the metric inched above 40 years old.
That is why hospitalizations are increasing, Farmer said.
“Those younger (asymptomatic positive) people are exposing themselves to older people and getting them infected, and that’s how this disease works, and that’s why we need statewide leadership,” he said.