TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Faced with falling poll numbers, rising COVID-19 cases and attacks from potential 2022 challengers, Gov. Ron DeSantis held a virtual roundtable with hospital leaders across the state on Wednesday morning to talk about how they are dealing with the influx of COVID-19 patients in recent weeks as the delta variant takes hold.
Hospital CEOs from Tampa, Orlando, Miami and North Broward all told DeSantis the current surge is largely due to the unvaccinated.
“You know, 95 percent of our current patients here are unvaccinated,” said Shane Strum, CEO of North Broward Health.
Tampa General CEO John Couris said his hospital has the most COVID-19 patients it has seen throughout the pandemic and its emergency room is full.
Over the last week, Orlando Health CEO David Strong said it has hovered around 500 COVID-19 positive patients across its system.
On Wednesday, Florida set another record with 12,041 COVID hospitalizations. That’s up 526 from the previous record set Tuesday.
Northeast Florida has not been spared.
New numbers released by UF Health on Wednesday show it has 236 people in the hospital for COVID-19 with 57 in the ICU.
Ascension St. Vincent’s has 387 people in its hospitals, up 11 from Tuesday. That’s a 203% increase from the highest peak in January.
There were no Jacksonville-area hospital CEOs at the roundtable meeting Tuesday, but Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry was on the call and said 99% of the area’s COVID-19 patients are not vaccinated.
“A lot of people are afraid and panicking. From my perspective, this is really, the solution is to get vaccinated,” Curry said. “I’m not suggesting we coerce or force or mandate people to get vaccinated, but if we keep working together to educate them that the vaccine is effective, it will keep you out of the hospital, and it will keep you from getting really, really sick.”
In South Florida, the epicenter for the pandemic last year, hospitals are not seeing as big of a spike in patients.
One hospital CEO attributes that to the high vaccination rate in Miami-Dade County.
“We’re in a lot better shape and I think part of it is the fact that Miami-Dade County, at least with one dose, is 78% vaccinated,” said Jackson Health System CEO Carlos Migoya, who added it has about half the number of COVID-19 patients it saw during the peak. “There’s definitely a correlation with the high vaccine in the counties and the infection rates in those counties.”
For comparison, 52% percent of Duval County residents have received at least one dose.
Strong said he believes hospitalizations have plateaued in Orlando.
“We hope what we’re looking at, if you look at the models in the UK as well as the Netherlands, this peak went up and then fell very quickly, so we’re hoping that same thing occurs here,” Strong said.
DeSantis said he hopes that’s the trend across the state.
The hospital CEOs did acknowledge they are putting some elective procedures on hold because in some cases they have staffing shortages.
The hospitals also told DeSantis that little-known monoclonal antibody treatments are showing promise if patients seek treatment with the onset of symptoms.
“Almost 100 percent of our patients have told us that 24 to 48 hours later, they feel much better,” said Couris.
Despite the spike in COVID-19 cases, hospital leaders encouraged those in need of medical care to visit hospitals to be treated.