Florida’s statewide hospital capacity is now approaching 15,000 unoccupied beds in anticipation of another week of climbing COVID-19 hospitalizations. Likewise, the availability of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds are also increasing. While national media outlets continue to flog Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for not falling into lockstep with other states, DeSantis has instead quietly managed the state’s response by ensuring hospital bed capacity remained available as more serious cases started to surface, while at the same time, allowing as much economic flexibility as possible.
The state dipped as low as 12,100 available beds over the last two weeks, but managed to free up 3,000 beds in that span. See the latest hospital bed census here.
Weeks earlier, dozens of hospitals and hospital chains began, on their own, to suspend elective surgeries and other elective procedures to make room for COVID-19 patients in anticipation of increasing cases. The move came after DeSantis ordered a statewide lockdown in late March that the media praised, but ultimately proved to be too restrictive. Hospitals in communities with few coronavirus cases found themselves forced to make layoffs of nurses and other specialists who had nothing to do, despite a growing backlog of regular patients waiting for help.
Over the weekend, many media outlets celebrated when Florida’s COVID-19 cases surpassed New York, ignoring vast differences in outcomes between the two states – despite more cases now in Florida, New York experienced more than 33,000 deaths, while Florida has fewer than 6,000 so far. The Wall Street Journal puts things into better perspective, with a side-by-side comparison that is worth checking out.
Despite several days last week of cases in five-digit territory, Florida’s COVID-19 outbreak appears to be slowing. Sunday’s new case count of 9,344 new cases is a substantial decline from the previous Sunday, when the state reported 12,400 new cases. The state peaked exactly two Sundays ago, at more than 15,000 cases:
Because of reporting differences on weekends versus weekdays, many media outlets, including The Capitolist, use a 7-day moving average to track trends in the virus. The lower case counts over the past week indicate that the virus spread is starting to slow somewhat:
Despite the good news, Florida will continue to see rising hospitalizations and deaths in the next few weeks. Hospitalization tend to lag new cases by about one week, while deaths lag new cases by about two weeks. And as the virus spreads from college-aged youth to the state’s older population, symptoms will likely be worse.
That’s why Florida’s hospital capacity remains critical, and why we are starting to see more available beds.
The virus remains potent and is still spreading. Take precautions to reduce the spread and risk to yourself and others. But don’t believe the media sensationalism and false narratives that Florida is in worse shape than New York. It’s simply not the same situation at all.