Hospital admissions of patients with COVID-19 continue to rise, adding to the strain already being experienced by local hospitals.
Admissions for patients with COVID-19 are at their highest levels since the start of the pandemic in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oregon and Washington, according to statistics kept by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Things are so serious that Pasco County Fire Rescue Fire Chief Scott Cassin and EMS Division Chief Paula Coleman have issued a video, asking residents and guests to avoid using the 911 system unless they are experiencing a true emergency.
“Hospital emergency rooms are currently being inundated with patients, and the time it takes to be seen in an emergency room is skyrocketing across our community,” the fire chief says in the video.
“Many hospitals are at, or over, capacity and ambulances are currently holding patients at hospitals for hours at a time, due to a lack of available beds and hospital staff.
“This is causing an ambulance shortage across the county, and is causing long wait times for our 911 callers,” Cassin says.
Coleman adds: “Please help us provide lifesaving interventions for those who truly need them. If your 911 call is not an emergency that needs immediate medical attention — such as chest pain, shortness of breath, stroke symptoms, serious trauma or other life-threatening illnesses or injury — please consider contacting your primary care physician, or utilizing a walk-in clinic or urgent care center. This will get you the help you need in a timelier manner, while at the same time assist an overtaxed health care system,” she says.
“Let’s all do our part to save the ambulances and ER visits for those who urgently need those services,” Coleman says.
Michael Weiss, epidemiology program manager for Florida Health-Hillsborough County, gave a big-picture look at Hillsborough County’s COVID-19 situation during an Aug. 18 emergency meeting of the Hillsborough County School Board.
“Right around June into July, we started this steep increase,” Weiss said.
“We are trending upwards. We are at 1,622 cases per day in our county. Positivity is around 22%. During the pandemic, this is the highest for both of those values.”
“This recent increase has coincided with a few things. In July, we had relaxed community mitigation measures, and we also saw the introduction of the delta variant into our community.
“These two things combined really increased the case transmission and the case rate in our community,” Weiss said.
“Hospital visits and hospitalizations both related to COVID are both at the highest levels seen at any point during our pandemic — during the entire pandemic. Hospitals are recording twice the number of COVID patients they saw in 2020 winter peak,” the epidemiologist said.
“Pediatric hospitalizations are also increasing. They represent a small percentage of the overall COVID hospitalizations, but they are also increasing. We are seeing both admissions and emergency department visits for pediatric cases increasing.
“Hospitalizations generally lag behind the case increases, so we expect the hospitalizations to continue to increase in the near future,” he added.
“Across all of these age groups, the hospitalizations are overwhelmingly in the unvaccinated population. Hospitals are reporting anywhere from 80% to 90% of cases are in unvaccinated individuals,” Weiss said.
Hospitals are making adjustments as the COVID-19 caseloads increase.
AdventHealth has halted elective procedures at AdventHealth Carrollwood, AdventHealth Dade City and AdventHealth Zephyhrhills, and at its AdventHealth Sebring facility, according to a media advisory issued Aug. 20.
“This decision allows us to further plan for the increased need for hospital beds, resources, and advocate for patients and team members. Patients will be notified if their procedure will be canceled,” the hospital chain announced.
AdventHealth “continues to see a significant increase in COVID-19 cases at its facilities across West Florida and has far surpassed its highest peak at any point in the pandemic,” the advisory adds.
The hospital system’s 10 hospitals in its West Florida Division had 600 currently admitted COVID-19 positive patients, according to the Aug. 20 advisory.
BayCare, another health care system in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area, paused all of its elective surgeries and procedures at its hospitals in Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties, regardless of whether they require an overnight stay, effective Aug. 14, according to the hospital’s website.
“This will help reserve resources for the urgent and emergent needs of severely ill patients,” the posting says.
“COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased 10-fold since the beginning of July, and today we have more than 1,000 COVID positive patients in our 14 acute care hospitals across the Tampa Bay area,” Glenn Waters, chief operating officer for BayCare, said in a website post.
“We’re making these operational adjustments to be sure we can continue providing safe, high-quality care to the recent influx of COVID patients, in addition to hundreds of other people in our hospitals with unrelated, serious medical issues,” Waters said.
In a new development, Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference last week to announce the opening of local sites to provide a new monoclonal antibody treatment for patients who are 12 years old or older. The treatment can prevent hospitalization or death in COVID-19 patients.
DeSantis presided at the opening of the site at the Fasano Hurricane Shelter, at 11611 Denton Ave., in Hudson.
Another site has opened in Hillsborough County at King Forest Park, at 8008 E. Chelsea St., in Tampa. The only access into the park is off Orient Road just north of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, according to a Hillsborough County news release.
Both sites will be open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For additional details, call the Florida Department of Health Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Support Line at 850-344-9637.
COVID-19 statistics: Aug. 13 to Aug. 19
New cases: 150,118
Positivity rate 19.8%
New cases: 11,161
Positivity rate: 22%
New cases: 4,223
Positivity rate: 26.4%
Source: Florida Department of Health
Symptoms of COVID-19 may include:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Published August 25, 2021
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