TAMPA, Fla. - As of Thursday afternoon, Florida hospitals were treating 5,132 patients for COVID-19 including 307 in Hillsborough County, 235 in Pinellas County, 150 in Polk, and 53 patients in Manatee.
"It’s fatiguing," said Dr. James Fiorica, the chief medical officer of Sarasota Memorial Hospital. "The nursing staff, the hospital staff they’ve been working many days a week, and for long hours."
COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on a steady rise in Florida since the end of October and it’s up nearly 800 from two weeks ago. But Fiorica says, right now, their ICU capacity is not worrisome.
"Right now, we have 58 patients in the ICU, of those, only 14 of them are COVID patients," he said. "We have a 72-bed capacity."
USF Infectious Disease Researcher Dr. Thomas Unnasch is in frequent conversation with area hospital executives.
"Overall, Tampa is good," he said. "Every week they’re seeing the water levels kind of rising. The number of people coming in is always higher than the number of people they’re discharging."
But Fiorica says a lot has changed since the surge in cases Florida saw in July.
"We now have more drugs to treat it," he said. "So I’d say that part is a little bit better. Now we have treatment modalities in place for people who are COVID positive. And we’ve learned more about this disease."
Data shows, Floria is better off than other states. A map published by Florida epidemiologist Dr. Jason Salemi shows the percentages of hospitals reporting critical staffing shortages in the past week. Florida, which is at 3.3 percent is ranked among the lowest in the nation. The key to keeping it that way, Unnasch says, is keeping a distance.
"Things like getting together for the holidays could really pour gasoline on the fire and we could see an increase that's greater than what we saw as a result of Thanksgiving," he said.
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@example.com. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.
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