As more than 9,500 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 and more than 50 hospitals’ ICUs are at capacity, Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to assure Floridians that hospitals aren’t overloaded.
Data released by the Agency for Health Care Administration doesn’t convey hospitals’ abilities to add beds or transfer patients to other facilities within their medical system, the Governor sought to clarify with a Tuesday roundtable with medical leaders.
“Just understand, we have a lot of rural communities and hospitals that have zero ICU capacity under any circumstances,” DeSantis said. “They just don’t have them, and if there is a need for that level of care, then patients are sent to areas that are a little bit more populated that have it.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, 9,508 patients are hospitalized for COVID-19.
With the narrative that hospitals are full, the Governor extended concerns that people will delay hospital visits for other potential severe conditions out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Hospital visits for heart condition and stroke symptoms declined during the early days of the pandemic, but later rebounded with more severe conditions, according to health experts.
“COVID-19 is just a fraction of what these hospitals are doing every day, and they’re treating people for all types of ailments, and they’re doing a good job doing it,” DeSantis said.
While experts said bed capacity has been a non-issue in the state, Florida Hospital Association Interim President Crystal Stickle noted that hospitals are short on personnel.
Additionally, some hospitals had to cut staff after the state suspended elective procedures, a policy reversed in May.
“There were a lot of hospitals who were half full that were not allowed to do elective procedures, and the fear was there wasn’t going to be enough beds,” DeSantis said, adding that closing elective surgeries wasn’t “evidence-based.”
To help alleviate short-staffed hospitals, the Department of Health has sent hundreds of medical professionals to hospitals in need, with up to 1,400 available if necessary.
But while the Governor makes the push to assuage public health concerns, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, head of the Department of Health, hasn’t made a public appearance since the early days of the pandemic. While DeSantis did not say that Rivkees would appear at future press conferences, he assured reporters that the Surgeon General was hard at work.
State officials had avoided an “unnecessary panic or hair on fire” response to the emergency and maintained a confident approach, the Governor insisted.
DeSantis reiterated that Florida is headed in the right direction with a plateau in cases and officials from AdventHealth said the state has a downward in COVID-19 hospital visits. Meanwhile, Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Mary Mayhew assured that public health experts have been developing ways to respond to the outbreaks.
“Let’s not confuse calm with a lack of concern or commitment,” she said.