COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida set new peak Sunday, continue to rise

Florida’s largest hospital systems are expanding their coronavirus units, limiting visitors and fearing staffing shortages as they deal with the statewide surge that is breaking records set last year for both cases and hospitalizations.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s largest hospital systems are expanding their coronavirus units, limiting visitors and fearing staffing shortages as they deal with the statewide surge that is breaking records set last year for both cases and hospitalizations. Florida is now leading the nation in per capita hospitalizations for COVID-19.

Hospitalizations have grown tenfold statewide in just over a month as the more contagious delta variant spreads, with more than 95% of COVID-19 patients unvaccinated, officials said.

The state had 10,389 COVID-19 hospitalizations Monday, according to the Florida Hospital Association. That’s almost 200 more than Sunday, when the state broke the previous record set on July 23, 2020, more than a half-year before vaccinations started becoming widespread. It then had 10,170 hospitalizations. More than 39,000 Floridians have died since March 2020, including more than 400 last week.

“What we are experiencing over the last 27 days is a dramatic increase in the number of hospitalizations,” FHA President Mary Mayhew said Monday morning on MSNBC.

Mayhew said it took 60 days for Florida to hit last year’s peak of COVID hospitalizations. It took 27 days for this summer’s surge of patients to exceed that number.

In the past week, Florida has averaged 1,525 adult hospitalizations a day, and 35 daily pediatric hospitalizations. Both are the highest per capita rate in the nation, according to Jason Salemi, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of South Florida.

“The recent rise is both striking and not-at-all surprising,” Salemi said in an email over the weekend.

The state of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration no longer provides data on COVID-19 hospitalizations to the public. The FHA began giving daily updates to vill the void.

At UF Health Jacksonville’s two hospitals on Monday morning were 218 COVID-19 patients, with 56 in intensive care on Monday morning. While that was eight fewer virus patients than late last week, but four additional cases in the intensive care unit.

Dr. Elizabeth DeVos, who has been seeing COVID-19 patients every day in the emergency department at UF Health Jacksonville, said this year has been like a marathon.

“Everybody is working like they are sprinting. It’s really a hard, difficult type of work that we are doing all the time, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going to let up anytime soon,” DeVos said. “I think that’s the part that’s really difficult for our health care workers -- everybody is putting in 1,000% every single day.”

Baptist Health said Monday it has 507 COVID-19 patients are hospitalized among its five facilities, with 95 of those in ICU. Ten of those patients are at Wolfson Children’s Hospital, with three in that ICU. On Friday, Baptist Health reported 437 COVID-19 patients, with 91 in ICUs.

On Sunday, Mayo Clinic notified the state its hospital had exceeded its licensed capacity of 304 licensed beds due to the significant increase in COVID-19 inpatients and activating its surge capacity plan.

Ascension-St Vincent’s has not released new numbers since last week when its CEO said it hospitals are at 163% of its prior peak, which was in January.

The age range of the patients who doctors and nurses are monitoring has changed.

“We are now seeing a different group of people coming into the hospital. The people are younger,” said Dr. Mohammed Reza, an infectious disease specialist.

At both Baptist Health and UF Health, 90% of the new COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated.

According to state data, there are more than 5.5 million younger adults between the ages of 20 and 39 in Florida, but less than half of those age groups are have received at least one dose of a vaccine -- 41% for 20- to 29-year-olds and 49% of 30- to 39-year-olds.

Reza added that the delta variant makes it easier for more people to be infected.

“One person infected can infect up to nine people, so we are talking about almost a different virus,” Reza said. “If you look at viruses in terms of how infectious and contagious they are, this delta variant is one of the most contagious infections known to man.”

The state also stopped giving daily updates on new cases and additional deaths. Federal health data released Saturday showed that Florida reported 21,683 new cases of COVID-19, the state’s highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic. One day earlier, Florida data showed 17,093 new daily cases.


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