Healthcare officials warn of coming COVID-19 patient surge at Tampa Bay hospitals

As COVID-19 infections surge in Florida and hospitalizations are on the rise, doctors are warning about the coming strain on the healthcare system.

Hospitals are managing with current bed capacity, but there’s a delicate balancing act.

"Not rising as sharply as we saw in June and july, meaning it’s not like a sheekra rollercoaster, but it’s still a roller coaster. We’re still going up high on the curve, and we haven’t really seen the top yet," said Dr. Jason Wilson, associate professor at University of South Florida Health Morsani College of Medicine and associate medical director at Tampa General Hospital. "We are still very full right now. We’re still surging right now. We’re still in a place where we are filling up the infectious disease unit in our hospital and other places are filling up as well."

LINK: COVID-19 vaccine distribution information in Tampa Bay area counties

About 16.8% of beds are available at Tampa Bay’s hospitals as of Wednesday, and the number of people landing in the hospital is going up. Florida Hospital Association president Mary Mayhew added context to the rate of current hospitalizations.

"When you think about where we were in July with over 10,000 hospitalizations, we now are fast approaching 8,000 COVID hospitalizations," said Mayhew. "There’s a greater number of hospitalizations statewide at this point than what we saw in July in terms of more hospitals seeing more COVID-related hospitalizations."

Mayhew added that healthcare workers are stretched thin.

"As our overall hospitalizations increase, particularly COVID hospitalizations, the challenge is having enough staff to care for all our patients," said Mayhew.

On Wednesday Florida hit 1.4 million total covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. The state’s track of the last two weeks shows how high cases are surging, and doctors worry the new, more contagious COVID variant could make matters worse.

"So now start adding those numbers up in the thousands of extra people and we then start to have a real capacity problem in this area," said Wilson.

Now that a vaccine is available, doctors want that to be their focus.

"The more our healthcare systems and our healthcare workers have to focus on a COVID surge, that’s less time that we can invest into getting ways to rollout these vaccines," said Dr. Wilson.

The Florida Hospital Association said doctors learned a lot from the peak over the summer, so they know how to react. FHA said hospitals may consider postponing some procedures again if bed capacity gets any lower.

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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