Hillsborough County commissioners will meet on Wednesday at 9 a.m. to discuss an array of topics pertaining to the fight against COVID-19.
For now, it looks like commissioners are poised to extend the local state of emergency order, which includes the county's face covering mandate.
On Monday, the county put out a press release on its website stating the county administrator extended it until at least Oct. 22. Now, it's in the hands of commissioners.
Over the last two weeks, the percent positivity rate in the county fluctuated between 3.8% and 6.6%. Eight days were above the 5% threshold health experts want communities to stay below to continue safely reopening. Because of this, it's unlikely commissioners decide to stop the extension or drop the face-covering mandate.
Commissioners will also discuss drafting a resolution to require routine COVID-19 testing for vulnerable communities, like those in assisted living facilities and group homes. Federal COVID-19 screening guidelines only pertain to nursing homes. The resolution would be drafted by the November 12 meeting. The agenda item contained sample language saying testing would not only focus on the elderly but also on people living in homeless shelters and detention center inmates.
Another topic on the table for commissioners includes a multi-million dollar request from Tampa General Hospital. Hospital leaders want to renovate an existing building to be used as a dedicated COVID-19 unit.
TGH estimates this project will cost them about $8.2 million. Hospital leaders want Hillsborough County commissioners to match funds up to $4.5 million. That funding will come from CARES Act federal funding.
The hospital also agrees to provide 500 tests for county and sheriff's office employees, plus purchase two mobile units for COVID-19 testing if commissioners agree to fund the project.
The newly renovated COVID-19 unit would contain 59 ICU beds on the third and fourth floors. Up to 45 surge readiness beds would be located on the first and second floors.
TGH had other big-name backers to urge commissioners to agree on funding the COVID-19 unit. Hillsborough Department of Health Director Dr. Doug Holt wrote a letter in favor of the project, saying it would have a major benefit for the community and would help with any future pandemics.
The University of South Florida Morsani School of Medicine dean and its director of the division of infectious diseases and international medicine signed off on a letter as well.
As of now, there's no timeline on when the COVID-19 unit would be ready for use. There's only a December 30 deadline to purchase items using the CARES Act funding.