Florida re­leases cur­rent COVID-19 hos­pi­tal­iza­tion data

Miami Herald - - Front Page - BY DANIEL CHANG AND BEN CONARCK dchang@mi­ami­her­ald.com bconarck@mi­ami­her­ald.com

Ten days af­ter Gov. Ron DeSan­tis’ ad­min­is­tra­tion said the state would re­lease cur­rent hos­pi­tal­iza­tion data for COVID-19, Florida’s hos­pi­tal reg­u­la­tor qui­etly added the in­for­ma­tion to its on­line dash­board on Fri­day af­ter­noon amid a surge of new cases and re­ports that South Florida hos­pi­tals were ap­proach­ing ca­pac­ity.

The state’s Agency for Health Care Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which up­dates the data in real time, reported at 4 p.m. Fri­day that 6,974 pa­tients were hos­pi­tal­ized statewide with a “pri­mary di­ag­no­sis of COVID.” The data does not dis­tin­guish be­tween the number of COVID-19 pa­tients in in­ten­sive-care units and those in acute-care beds, which re­quire less at­ten­tion from nurses.

Un­der pres­sure from pub­lic-health ex­perts for be­ing one of the few states not to re­port cur­rent COVID-19 hos­pi­tal­iza­tions, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Ad­min­is­tra­tion pub­lished the data Fri­day.

Un­til Fri­day, Florida was one of only three states that did not re­port cur­rent hos­pi­tal­iza­tion data for COVID-19, and the only one to refuse to do it while ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a dra­matic rise in new cases.

Ear­lier in the day, speak­ing in Orange County, DeSan­tis as­sured Florid­i­ans that hos­pi­tals have room for more pa­tients.

“It’s an im­por­tant mes­sage to folks through­out the state of Florida just to know the hos­pi­tals have ca­pac­ity,” he said.

DeSan­tis noted that the state has opened 12 COVID-only nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties statewide, in­clud­ing one in Miami, and that re­in­force­ments of about 1,000 nurses and other health­care work­ers were on the way to help at hos­pi­tals, test­ing sites and other ar­eas.

Still, it is clear that the resur­gence of COVID-19 in Florida has strained hos­pi­tals statewide.

At 4 p.m. on Fri­day, the AHCA dash­board re­flected that there were 917 ICU beds, or 15% avail­able, in hos­pi­tals across the state. For acute-care beds,

11,782, or nearly 20%, were open. The state’s num­bers also in­di­cated that Miami-Dade had 1,578 pa­tients hos­pi­tal­ized with a pri­mary di­ag­no­sis of COVID as of 4 p.m. on Fri­day and that 121, or about 13%, of Miami-Dade’s ICU beds were still avail­able.

But the county — which has been pub­lish­ing its own statis­tics for months on a “New Nor­mal” dash­board that’s up­dated daily and self-reported by hos­pi­tals — has painted an in­creas­ingly ur­gent pic­ture, show­ing Fri­day morn­ing that ICU ca­pac­ity in Miami-Dade had nearly been reached, with 386 out of 397 ICU beds oc­cu­pied as of 10:15 a.m. and 1,779 hos­pi­tal­ized COVID pa­tients.

Jen­nifer Moon, deputy mayor of Miami-Dade, said there might be a number of rea­sons why the county’s hos­pi­tal­iza­tion data dif­fers from the state’s.

One ex­pla­na­tion is the time of day when the data is reported. In Mi­amiDade, the county re­ports the number of COVID pa­tients in beds, avail­able ICU beds, ven­ti­la­tor in­ven­tory and other data twice a day — at 10:15 a.m. and at 7:15 p.m.

AHCA’s dash­board up­dates its hos­pi­tal­iza­tion data ev­ery hour or more of­ten, and it does not in­clude in­for­ma­tion such as ven­ti­la­tor in­ven­tory.

In ad­di­tion, pa­tients who visit the hos­pi­tal for other emer­gen­cies, such as ap­pen­dici­tis or child la­bor, and then test pos­i­tive for the coro­n­avirus might not be counted in AHCA’s dash­board un­less COVID-19 is the pri­mary di­ag­no­sis. South Florida hos­pi­tal ad­min­is­tra­tors have said many pa­tients com­ing to the emer­gency room for other ur­gent med­i­cal needs are test­ing pos­i­tive for COVID-19 af­ter they are ad­mit­ted.

An­other rea­son, Moon said, is hu­man er­ror.

“One day we get some­thing from a hos­pi­tal that says 23 and the next time it’s 32,” she said. “There’s a lot of fat-fin­ger things go­ing on.”

De­spite the dif­fer­ences in the data, how­ever, it is clear that the resur­gence of COVID-19 in Florida has tested the lim­its of beds and staff at many hos­pi­tals. At the height of COVID hos­pi­tal­iza­tions in April, hos­pi­tals in Miami-Dade reported a peak of 726 pa­tients with COVID. On Fri­day, that number stood at 1,779, ac­cord­ing to the county’s data.

Moon said county of­fi­cials were closely mon­i­tor­ing ICU ca­pac­ity.

“We’re very con­cerned,” Moon said. “It’s why the mayor has taken some of the ac­tions he took this week to pre­vent the spread.”

Gimenez has or­dered a par­tial roll­back of Mi­amiDade’s re­open­ing, re­strict­ing restau­rants to out­door din­ing and take­out or de­liv­ery or­ders, and re­strict­ing Airbnb op­er­a­tions and other short-term va­ca­tion rentals.

As hos­pi­tals statewide con­tinue to see a rise in pa­tients, the big­gest con­cern is not the number of beds but main­tain­ing health­care staff, es­pe­cially nurses, who are near­ing ex­haus­tion af­ter car­ing for COVID pa­tients since March.

This week, DeSan­tis said the state would send 100 nurses to help at Jackson Health Sys­tem, Mi­amiDade’s tax­payer-owned health­care net­work and the largest pub­lic-hos­pi­tal sys­tem in Florida, where 375 pa­tients with COVID were hos­pi­tal­ized on Fri­day — 46 more pa­tients than the prior day.

Bap­tist Health South Florida also said this week that its 11 hos­pi­tals in Miami-Dade, Mon­roe and

Palm Beach counties were near­ing ca­pac­ity, and that the non­profit health­care sys­tem ex­pected to add 100 nurses from out-of­s­tate by next week and an ad­di­tional 96 nurses who will grad­u­ate from Bap­tist Health’s train­ing pro­gram.

MA­TIAS J. OCNER moc­ner@mi­ami­her­ald.com

Tests con­tinue at Hard Rock Sta­dium in Miami Gar­dens on Wed­nes­day. Un­til Fri­day, Florida was one of only three states that did not re­port cur­rent COVID-19 hos­pi­tal­iza­tion data.

MA­TIAS J. OCNER moc­ner@mi­ami­her­ald.com

Coro­n­avirus test­ing con­tin­ues at Hard Rock Sta­dium in Miami Gar­dens on Wed­nes­day.

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