If you’re sick, or if you are in need of “elective surgery,” don’t let the coronavirus epidemic make you afraid to go to the hospital, Gov. Ron DeSantis urged Floridians Sunday.
The Governor’s comments come on the eve of his Phase One orders to begin reopening Florida’s economy, orders that include allowing hospitals to begin conducting elective surgeries again, including procedures delayed even though they can be critical to the health of people even suffering from serious conditions such as cancer, heart problems, and aneurysms.
Speaking at the Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach Sunday, DeSantis laid out his expectations for rapid increases in COVID-19 testing including by some Walgreens drugstores this week, and CVS drugstores and some Walmart stores soon, and upcoming widespread testing for COVID-19 antibodies.
He cautioned that he expects the increased testing will find more cases and lead to higher caseload numbers but that should not be misread as new spikes in the epidemic, so long as the positive-test rate remains well below 10% overall, as it is now.
DeSantis said the state finally received 200,000 antibody test kits early Sunday morning. They will be deployed in the coming days to hospitals for health care workers, to drive-in test sites around the state, and to universities for a scientifically representative sample testing program to get a clearer picture of how many Floridians caught symptomatic infections of COVID-19 without knowing.
But as hospitals open to elective surgeries, DeSantis and Halifax Health officials also urged people to trust that the hospitals are safe places to go, places where COVID-19 patient are being treated in carefully contained units away from general hospital populations.
“One of the biggest problems we’ve had in the last six weeks is people that have heart problems or stroke symptoms deciding they don’t want to go to the hospital. And sometimes that is because they are worried about being exposed to COVID. I think you’ll hear, what Halifax did, there’s really no chance of that because of how they separated the units. But it’s certainly important to people,” he said.
“If you do have those, the hospital is safe place to be, and taking care of yourself is really, really important,” DeSantis said.
The elective surgeries were shut down, under U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines and DeSantis’ initial safe-at-home orders six weeks ago, to assure that the hospitals would not run out of capacity or supplies if they get surges of COVID-19 patients.
For the most part, hospitals were never overwhelmed in Florida, and, instead, some actually had to furlough workers when they shut down all but emergency surgeries, DeSantis said.
Now that the sense of crisis is past, the need is to convince people to go to the hospital again.
At Halifax Health, for example, the medical center normally handles about 80 surgical procedures a day, and will start slowly Monday with about 25, ramping up to maybe 40 on Tuesday.
“The hospital is a safe place to be,” said Jeff Feasel, president of Halifax Heath.