NewsHillsborough County


USF analysis predicts serious hospital bed shortage if social distancing measures aren't followed

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Posted at 8:57 AM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 09:02:40-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- USF researchers say if Hillsborough County residents don't follow social distancing measures for two months, the county will face a severe hospital bed shortage.

According to a press release, researchers applied a model that shows the demand for beds will significantly exceed what's available if the distancing measures aren't "widely followed."


There are 4,060 hospital beds in the county, according to the release. Researchers say the report shows there will be twice as many hospital patients than total beds by June. That doesn't take patients hospitalized for health conditions into account.

Researchers say that will happen unless individuals reduce the number of different people they come into contact with every day by 45%.

“Stay-at-home orders will work if people pay attention and we will be able to reduce infections to the point where the hospital system could care for everyone who falls ill,” said Thomas Unnasch, PhD, distinguished professor in the USF College of Public Health. “It will be better to get quality care in a hospital than lying in a tent set up in a parking lot.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a safer at home order on Wednesday. It went into effect at midnight on Friday and lasts for 30 days.

RELATED: The difference between 'Safer at Home' and 'Stay at Home' orders

DeSantis' order asks Floridians to stay in their homes outside of some "essential activities," which include but are not limited to going to grocery stores, gas stations, health care facilities, pharmacies and child care centers.

DeSantis did not order the closure of non-essential businesses.

Here is a list of essential services, per the order:

  • Attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship
  • Participating in recreational activities such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running or swimming - as long as it is consistent with social distancing guidelines
  • Taking care of pets
  • Caring for or assisting a loved one or friend


USF researchers say when medical professionals develop a way to identify and isolate infectious people quickly, population-wide social distancing may no longer be necessary.

Until that happens, Unnasch says as many people as possible need to following social distancing recommendations to keep the pandemic from overwhelming our local healthcare system.

According to the press release, recent data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Emergency Status System shows current bed occupancy is 62% in Hillsborough, and ICU bed occupancy is 66%. COVID-19 patients spend between four and 10 days in the hospital, depending on the severity of their infection.