Miami-Dade County’s Jackson Health System — one of the leading health systems in the state — will begin limiting elective surgeries starting next week due to capacity concerns caused by the novel coronavirus.
The news comes as Miami-Dade County added more than 1,000 new COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday’s report. The South Florida tri-county area — which also includes Broward and Palm Beach counties — added nearly 2,000 new cases altogether.
That raw total is lower than in recent days. Testing totals were also among the lowest in the previous week for the region as well, however. The share of tests that came back positive remained among the highest the region has seen in the previous two weeks.
That indicates the virus is continuing to spread, even though the raw number of new cases are lower.
On Wednesday, Jackson Health CEO Carlos Migoya cited the positivity rate among Jackson’s staff as a reason for pulling back on elective procedures. Over the past month, Migoya said the positivity rate among those tested has risen from 7% to 12%. Many of those individuals have contracted the virus outside the hospital, according to Migoya.
“If this continues at the pace that we are going right now, in a period of about a month, a month and a half, we are going to be in a very difficult situation,” he said.
The rising positivity rate has been a trend in South Florida as well and has given officials cause for concern. From June 10-16, the positivity rate in Broward and Miami-Dade counties remained below 10%, while results in Palm Beach hovered around that number.
Experts say that 10% threshold is a dangerous one. The last two weeks of June have shown all three major counties now above that threshold.
From June 17-23, Palm Beach County saw an average daily case number of 297 per day. That number has increased to 415 per day from June 24-30.
However, the region has seen a week-to-week decline in the share of positive tests. That number rose from around 10% from June 10-16 to 11% from June 17-23. This past week, from June 24-30, the number declined to 10.6%.
While the week-to-week drop over the past two weeks is a positive sign, a sustained three-week period where more than 10% of tests has come back positive is cause for concern. Palm Beach County Commissioners voted last week to mandate face masks in public.
It’s hard to find any rosy takeaway from the numbers in Broward and Miami-Dade, where both the average daily cases and positivity rate has continued to rise.
Broward saw an increase of 347 cases per day from June 17-23 to 563 new cases from June 24-30. The positivity rate also rose from 9.2% from June 17-23 to 10.9% from June 24-30.
The numbers are even more dire in Miami-Dade. From June 17-23, the region saw 669 new cases per day on average and an eye-popping positivity rate of 13.2%.
It got worse. From June 24-30, Miami-Dade recorded a daily average of 1,451 new cases and had a 15.7% positivity rate during that span.
While the week-to-week trends are clear, the raw number of new cases has declined the past few days. That’s true statewide and appears to be driven by a dip in testing capacity.
After recording more than 70,000 tests each day from June 25-27, the state has now recorded between 41,000 and 46,000 tests per day from June 28-30.
That’s a sharp decline and has led to a lower number of new daily cases. Positivity rates remain high, however, both in South Florida and statewide.
Now, hospital capacity at one of the region’s largest health systems is also being challenged following Migoya’s Wednesday announcement.
The rise in cases appears largely driven by younger Floridians, leading Broward and Miami-Dade counties to close beaches during the July 4 weekend. Miami-Dade has also instituted stricter measures at restaurants and hotels.
Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Wednesday he is most concerned with large indoor gatherings rather than outside activities over the holiday. The Republican governor has not imposed a statewide order to wear masks and has resisted rolling back much of the gradual reopening of the state’s economy.
“Doing things outdoors in Florida is less risky than doing things where you’re packed indoors,” DeSantis said during an event at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. “By and large, the virus does not like sunshine, heat and humidity. I think every study has shown that.”
Miami Beach is reimposing a curfew from 12:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., city manager Jimmy Morales told city commissioners in an email. “This will reduce the social interaction and help police with enforcement against loitering,” Morales said. “There is nothing else to do after midnight.”
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, meanwhile, issued an order late Tuesday forbidding restaurants that have seating for more than eight people from serving customers inside from midnight to 6 a.m. until further notice. Another order bans alcohol sales for on-site consumption between midnight and 6 a.m.
“Too many people were crowding into restaurants late at night, turning these establishments into breeding grounds for this deadly virus.,” Gimenez said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this post.