South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday)

Admittance up 68%, but beds are available

- ByMarc Freeman

COVID-19 hospitaliz­ations in Florida are up almost68% in the past fourweeks — 123% in Miami-Dade County alone — but the state is not facing bed shortages like other parts of the country with a surge of infected people.

The U.S. on Friday hit a record with

101,276 patients now hospitaliz­ed with a coronaviru­s diagnosis, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Officials in California, Arizona, Indiana and other

states say they are worried about theirhealt­hcaresyste­msbecoming crushed as infections surge.

But Florida, with 4,341 people hospitaliz­edmiddaySa­turdaywith aprimary diagnosis ofCOVID-19, still remains far belowits summer crisis point.

The state reached a pandemic high of 9,508 hospitaliz­ations on July 21, according to the Agency for Health Care Administra­tion. The figure dropped to as low as 2,011 on Oct. 19, records show.

The number stood at 2,589 four weeks ago and has been steadily climbing, just as new cases have spiked. Florida tallied at least

10,000 new cases on Saturday for the third day in a row.

Yet hospital emergency rooms are also seeing fewer people showup withCOVID-like illness as compared with the spike five months ago.

For the week of July 5, there were 16,036 visits to hospital ERs. Therewere 6,817 visits during the week of Nov. 22, the most recent informatio­n available from the state health department.

In South Florida, hospitaliz­ations are up in the past month in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. MiamiDade hospitals had 340 COVID

19 patients in beds on Nov. 7; the number was 759 at noon Saturday

With the region seeing a rise in both new cases and hospitaliz­ations, Miami- Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava on Friday called together South Florida government and hospital leaders to send “an urgent and united message” to the community.

“We’re gravely concerned about overwhelmi­ng our health care system, and capacity to care for covid patients,” said Levine Cava, who onNov. 30 announced she had tested positive for the virus. She called on the public to wear masks, practice social distancing and keep up with good hygiene.

“If we push our system to the limit, when covid cases spread too quicklywe will be at a breaking point,” the mayor said during the session streamed online.

Carlos Migoya, the president and CEO of Miami-based Jackson Health System, said hospital staffing is “the biggest challenge” these days, mainly because temporary nurses are already working in other states.

“We have at least 30 to 45 days of challengin­g times ahead of us andwe cannot afford to get to the kinds of numberswe had in South Florida back in July, because even thoughwe have the beds, wemay not necessaril­y have the staff,” Migoya said.

Broward County has experience­d a nearly 53% increase in COVID-19 hospitaliz­ations the past four weeks, rising from 287 patients to439. PalmBeachC­ounty is up 74.3% over the same period, going from148 patients to 258.

However, Palm Beach County recorded a 9.5% decrease in the pastweek, data show.

The state Agency for Health CareAdmini­stration, whichtrack­s capacity in hospitals, reports there currently is enough room to treat people with the disease.

Figures show statewide available hospital capacity is at 24%, with 21% of intensive care unit beds available on Saturday. South Florida hospitals have similar room.

Since the pandemic began, 56,317 residents have been hospitaliz­ed for the disease, according to the state health department.

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