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The pandemic in Florida rages on with no sign that the state is emerging from the new wave.
Friday marked the 13th day in a row in Florida set a record for COVID hospitalizations. With 15,840 patients hospitalized with COVID, the state has surpassed its previous peak in July 2020 by 152%.
Broward County is reporting its hospital beds are nearly full and its pediatric intensive care beds are at 100% capacity, according to a new dashboard made available Friday. According to the dashboard, 1,645 COVID patients are admitted to 16 Broward County hospitals as of Aug. 13 — about 97% of patient beds are filled, 96% of adult ICU beds. The dashboard shows all 71 pediatric ICU beds are filled.
Broward continues to lead the nation with the most COVID patients admitted to the hospital in the last seven days —1,824 new patients, according to national data.
According to Florida’s weekly COVID report released on Friday, 16,754 new cases this week were in children 12 or younger.
On Friday, Florida reported 151,415 new COVID cases for the week ending Aug. 12, compared with 134,506 a week earlier. Test positivity rose to 19.3% from 18.9% a week earlier.
The number of new vaccine doses administered in the last week dropped slightly to 384,328 from 434,172 a week earlier. However, just a month earlier, Florida gave out only 257,404 shots for the week.
With 1,071 more fatalities on record, 40,766 Florida residents are now dead from COVID-19. This week’s 1,071 deaths reflect an increase from the 616 last week, but deaths can take several days or weeks to be reported to the state.
For the week ending Aug. 12, the largest number of new COVID cases reported by the state were found among people 30 to 39 years old, an age group that reported nearly 27,000 new cases.
In total, 2,877,214 people in Florida have tested positive for COVID.
- Palm Beach County reported 9,159 additional cases up from 7,787 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 179,852.
- Broward County reported 14,675 additional cases up from 12,590 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 294,646
- Miami-Dade County reported 21,561 new cases up from 19,639 a week prior. The total number of confirmed cases in the county stands at 583,845.
Public health experts say the virus is considered under control when the COVID-19 test positivity rate is under 5%. Florida often has exceeded 5% in its widely publicized calculation for assessing the rate for testing of residents.
The state reported a positivity rate of 19.3% on Friday, compared to 18.9% a week earlier This method of calculating positivity counts new infections only but also counts repeat negative tests, which skews the figure downward.
In South Florida, the new case positivity rate rose in all three counties; In Broward it was 16.5% up from 15.9% a week earlier; In Palm Beach it was 17.8%, up from 17.1% and in Miami-Dade it was 12.4% up from 12.7%.
Florida hospitals have announced the surge of patients is taxing their staff and in some cases their supplies. Across Florida, health systems are suspending elective surgeries, restricting on visitors and even mandating vaccines for employees. Hospitals report COVID patients are younger than in prior waves and mostly unvaccinated. Local physicians have been pleading with South Florida residents to get vaccinated.
A statewide update shows Florida hospitals are filling up: inpatient bed availability as of Friday was only 14.4% and ICU bed availability for adults was only 8.8%.
Hospitals have begun converting cafeteria space and conference rooms into patient care areas and converting regular beds into ICU beds.
Kerting Baldwin, a spokeswoman for Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, confirmed that pediatric intensive care beds are all occupied. “As we have learned throughout this pandemic, having an ICU at 100% doesn’t mean we cannot expand ICU capacity.”
At Broward Health Salah Foundation Children’s Hospital, 14 COVID patients are admitted and while ICU beds are full, more can be added, said spokeswoman Jennifer Smith. “Having full beds doesn’t mean we can’t provide that level of care in other parts of the hospital. We are accepting pediatric patients.” Smith said all 14 COVID patients are teenagers, all unvaccinated.
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With 35% of eligible Floridians lacking even one dose of a vaccine, the pandemic continues to drive more cases.
Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood has reached out to the federal and state government for more oxygen and ventilators. Jackson Health in Miami has joined Holy Cross Health in Fort Lauderdale in requiring all employees to get vaccinated.
The Florida Hospital Association released a member survey through Aug. 11 showing about 67% of hospitals are expecting critical staffing shortages in the next seven days.
“It is indescribable the level of stress and strain our brave frontline health care heroes have been under for more than 17 months and the heartbreaking losses they have experienced,” said Mary C. Mayhew, president of the Florida Hospital Association, in a statement. “Getting vaccinated is the only way to protect yourself and others from this virus.”
In Florida, more than 12.4 million people have received at least one dose of a vaccine, of those 10.3 million are fully vaccinated. The most heavily vaccinated age group in Florida are people 65 and older which is 86% vaccinated, followed by the 60-64 age group, which is 79% vaccinated. Of those eligible, the least vaccinated age group is 12- to 19-year-olds.
Sun Sentinel health reporter Cindy Goodman can be reached at email@example.com.