TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A group of hospital CEOs and doctors from around the state met virtually with Governor Ron DeSantis and had a universal message for Floridians, don’t delay care because we are open.
The roundtable discussion with Governor DeSantis came as the state reported another record day of hospitalizations from COVID-19. As of Wednesday, the state had more than 12,000 COVID-19 patients in hospitals. Still, DeSantis has refused to allow local schools to make the decision on whether to wear masks as situations change.
Still, the hospital CEOs said even though the current COVID-19 delta variant “spike” is “pretty strong” some feel that the surge will end soon.
“If you look at the forecast, we’re saying one to three weeks,” said Jackson Health CEO Carlos Migoya.
However, Migoya also pointed out that the forecasts have been wrong in the past. Migoya also said Jackson Health is considering stopping elective surgeries and has stopped visitations to be protective of their patients.
Tampa General Health CEO John Couris said his hospital was seeing a much younger population of COVID-19 patients with the median age being 57 years old, about 10 years younger than during last year’s surge after July 4.
Couris agreed with the governor that there are breakthrough cases coming in. A breakthrough case is when a person who has been vaccinated still contracts COVID-19. But, Couris said, “the vast majority” of those who are vaccinated and still have to be hospitalized with COVID-19 are “immunosuppressed already.”
North Broward Hospital District Shane Strum and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said between 95 and 99% of the current hospitalized COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated. The CEOs said the solution is to get vaccinated but wouldn’t support a vaccine mandate at this point. Strum said his physicians are seeing a big difference between the delta strain and the original strain.
“Our physicians say it’s much different and spreads much more aerosolized,” Strum said. “Vaccinated stays are about a day or two, while unvaccinated are five to six days. Overall, we’re seeing more cases because it’s more contagious, but less dangerous.”
Tampa General’s Couris summed up his message to worried residents thusly, “Go to your emergency room if you’re having a real emergency. We’re open. We’re here. Don’t wait. Don’t delay care. Hospitals are ready and ready to take care of patients in an emergency.” He continued saying they monitor everything hour by hour and if they start to face challenges, they’ll slow things down and move care when needed.
And backing up the point, several hospital CEOs discussed the recently expanded authorization of monoclonal antibody treatment. But the treatment, which the Food and Drug Administration said should not be seen as a vaccine replacement, has limits and depends on how quickly someone with COVID-19 seeks career. A message the CEOs wanted people to remember.
“The only real treatment is with monoclonal antibodies,” Migoya said while emphasizing people seek treatment early. “It’s too late after seven days. Getting to us quicker is the only way to get treatment.”