Central Florida hospital capacities pushed to their limits by new COVID cases, data shows

ORLANDO, Fla. — Almost a third of all hospital beds in Florida are occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The situation is even more dire in the intensive care units where approximately half of all beds are being used by COVID patients, as Florida’s current outbreak leads the nation.

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In July of 2020, Florida had its worst COVID count, with more than 10,000 patients hospitalized with the virus.

As of last Thursday, Florida had eclipsed that number, pushing the state’s hospital system to its limits.

“The patient loads are really high, and it’s putting a lot of stress on staff,” said Justin Senior of the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida. “Most hospitals across the state have had to engage in procedures that increase their capacity or expand their capacity.”

At least eight Central Florida hospitals are reporting intensive care units at full capacity, according to the HHS data.

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Those that aren’t at capacity are reporting limited numbers of beds with most reporting ICU space at 15-percent or less.

For Senior, the numbers are concerning, but he says there is still capacity, and patients shouldn’t hesitate to go to the hospital if they are having a medical emergency.

Even as Florida leads the nation in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Senior says there’s still some flexibility in the system.

“They’re freeing up capacity for heart attack patients, car crash patients, as well as COVID patients,” Senior said. “So they’re making sure that they have the ability and wherewithal to give the best care that you can possibly get.”

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Senior says the age of recent COVID patients has also presented a challenge.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the hospitalization rate for kids in Florida under the age of four has tripled since the end of June, though kids still make up the smallest percentage of COVID-19 patients.