TAMPA, Fla. - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday the state is sending 100 nurses to the Tampa Bay area to help hospitals handle the surge of COVID-19 patients.
The governor did not indicate which hospitals the nurses would be dispatched to, but it's expected the most crowded ones will be the first to receive assistance. The governor said the fleet of healthcare professionals were contracted by the state early in the pandemic so they could help in the case of a spike in hospitalizations.
"A lot of folks have been working a long time, really since March on this. I know we've had different blips and now we're in a higher blip than where we were in May and the beginning of June," DeSantis said. "We've dispatched 100 contract nurses that we had had under contract down to Miami-Dade, another hundred for the Tampa Bay area."
Dr. Jason Wilson, with Tampa General Hospital, told the Hillsborough County Emergency Policy Group on Monday that the situation is worse now than when most of the state was locked down this spring.
Wilson said, "...on an average day around March or April our COVID census in the whole hospital for admitted patients might have been between 15 and 20. Right now, on a given day, it's over 60."
Dr. Jay Wolfson, an associate vice president with USF Health, said Hillsborough County's health care planning group met Thursday and discussed the additional nurses.
Experts believe the contracted nurses will be military nurses from MacDill Air Force Base, some of whom recently returned from a deployment to help in New York.
Wolfson said the assistance is critical because the situation isn't likely going to improve any time soon.
"We're at that tipping point now. We can expand facilities. We can open up new rooms and have more ICU beds, but then you need staffing," Wolfson said. "Any relief you can get is really important because it's going to continue. We're not done with this yet. It's going to continue to rise and the only thing, the only thing that can begin to tamp down that curve is us."
Experts said once the nurses are in the area, they can be moved to different hospitals in different counties.
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