Bay Area hospitals see uptick in COVID-19 patients

With more COVID-19 tests being done and thousands of new cases each day in Florida, the next number getting attention is the number of available hospital beds.

"We are beginning to see very early signs of what could be a big increase in hospitalizations," said Dr. Charles Lockwood, the dean of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine at Monday's Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group meeting.

Doctors say the age of positive cases is skewing younger and, the good news is, the severity of cases is lower, too.

"A lot less folks are requiring mechanical inhalation for the severe presentations of COVID," said Dr. Sunil Desai with Orlando Health.  

"A case today is not the same as a case on like March 30," Governor Ron DeSantis said. "A case on March 30 was almost always someone who was symptomatic, usually somebody who was at least 50-plus, but many times, 65-plus."

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Since Florida began tracking COVID-19 cases, more than 13,000 people have been hospitalized. With Wednesday's record increase of more than 5,000 new positive cases, how much stress is that putting on Bay Area hospitals?

"Emergency room visits in [Hillsborough County] for COVID-like illnesses in the middle of May were about 191 a day. And now, they are almost 500 a day," Lockwood said.

Tampa General Hospital's CEO John Couris reports a 30% uptick in general hospitalizations for COVID-19 patients, with five patients on ventilators; a number that's been stable in recent weeks.

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AdventHealth says its hospitalizations are up, too, but it has an adequate number of COVID-19 Unit and ICU beds available, as well as ventilators and PPE.

With BayCare's COVID-19 admissions jumping by a third in the last week, it's prepared to shift staff and resources where needed.  

While hospital admissions statewide are up, Gov. DeSantis said it's not just from COVID-19, but also the resumption of elective procedures.

Looking at the current numbers, Florida's hospitals report 21.7% available beds. According to data posted on the Agency for Health Care Administration's website, Hillsborough County has 19%, Citrus and Pinellas both have around 25%, Sarasota has 21% capacity and Polk shows 15%.

As for ICU beds, according to the AHCA data, Florida has just under 19%. Citrus, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas fall below that. Highlands, Manatee and Sarasota Counties are well above.

"Not only do we have capacity to take care of all of our community and patients, not only just COVID patients, we have not even tapped into the surge capability should we ever need that," Dr. Desai said. "We do have that, and that's a 30-40% bed capacity above our base,"

It may sound like a broken record but the hospitals say everyone plays a role in mitigating the spread of the virus and decreasing the number of patients they're treating. They urge everyone to help by social distancing, wearing a mask and frequently washing their hands.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


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