SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — Public health leaders across Florida are worried about an increase in the number of local COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Data from the Florida Agency on Healthcare Administration shows across Florida hospitalizations are up more than 30% in just the past three weeks.
Some local counties are getting hit hard like Pasco and Sarasota. In Pasco, the number of people being hospitalized has more than doubled and in Sarasota, it’s up 60% over the past few weeks.
As of Tuesday, 3,025 people were hospitalized in Florida from COVID-19. On Monday, in just a 24 hour period, 121 patients were admitted to hospitals with the primary diagnosis of COVID-19, according to the AHCA. Public health leaders blame pandemic fatigue and worry about many of us letting our guards down.
Dr. Thomas Unnasch, at USF’s School of Public Health, says that’s the worst thing we can do.
“This virus doesn’t get bored unlike we do. It’s going to exploit any chink in the armor we give it,” he said.
The good news is hospitalizations are down 70% from July when those numbers peaked in Florida. Yet, with the holidays and flu season just around the corner, doctors say masks and social distancing are crucial.
As of Tuesday, 3,025 people were hospitalized in Florida from COVID. On Monday, in just a 24 hour period, 121 patients were admitted to hospitals with the primary diagnosis of COVID-19.
Manuel Gordillo, Sarasota Memorial Hospital’s Infection Prevention Medical Director says they’re preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. He also says it’s possible for people to contract both the flu and COVID at the same time.
“There’s no cross-protection from one virus to another. They’re very different and the antibodies for one virus does not protect you from the other,” he explained.
Sarasota Memorial is currently caring for 48 people with COVID-19 and they added a separate waiting room for patients with COVID-19 or flu symptoms. They also take those patients to private rooms to isolate shortly after checking into the hospital, according to Lisa Collins-Brown, the Emergency Care Nurse at SMH.
Dr. Unnasch says he worries about the two months ahead, as people gather with family members and cases spread. Although a vaccine seems closer to reach, experts say it could be until Spring before we see widespread distribution.
“We really are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel here, the trouble is we’re not out of the tunnel,” Unnasch added.
Florida has the advantage of good weather and public health experts say COVID-19 is less likely to spread outdoors. Experts recommend if you do get together with families for the holidays, trying to move the festivities and meals outside.
“Do it outside where you can afford to spread around a bit more. Even without the mask, you’ll be in pretty good shape,” Unnasch elaborated.
BayCare also sent this statement to ABC Action News pertaining to an increase in hospitalizations they have seen:
“COVID-19 cases continue to steadily increase across Florida and Tampa Bay. As numbers rise in the region, we’re seeing a similar upward trend in the number of new cases across BayCare in-patient and outpatient facilities including drive-thru testing sites and hospital admissions. While this increase is concerning, BayCare remains prepared. As a large health system, we have capacity and resources that we can shift where they are needed to respond and help care for the community. As fatigued as everyone is, it’s important that we continue to wear a mask, social distance and practice frequent hand hygiene to help slow the spread of the virus.”