Florida COVID-19 hospitalizations “decline at a rapid pace”, but ICU beds still over 90% occupied
Florida hospitals have consistently had some of the highest numbers of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the nation, especially as the Delta variant spreads throughout the state. However, hospital officials are now saying Florida has finally reached a peak.
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Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that 13,452 Floridians are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, a drop of 697 since last Saturday. The number of ICU beds in use for COVID-19 was 3,095 as of Wednesday, a decrease of 217 from Saturday. However, less than 10% of ICU beds remain available across the state, a problem hospitals have faced along with oxygen shortages.
Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary C. Mayhew noted in a statement that vaccination and monoclonal antibody treatments play a key role in decreasing hospitalizations.
“COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline at a rapid pace, dropping more than 20% in the last two weeks. Thanks to increased vaccination with nearly 83% of seniors (65+) and 62% of our population (12+) fully vaccinated, and Governor Ron DeSantis expanding the availability of monoclonal antibody treatments for those Floridians who test positive, we anticipate COVID-19 hospitalizations could drop below last year’s peak in the coming weeks.”
Fully vaccinated individuals are less likely to have severe illness or become hospitalized from COVID-19, according to Pasco County Department of Health spokesperson Melissa Watts.
“As friends and family members who are not vaccinated become seriously ill, more and more people realize that vaccines might be a better choice with less consequences than running the risk of a COVID-19 infection.”
State data shows that 462,269 vaccine doses were administered during the week of Aug. 27 – Sept. 2, a decrease from the previous two weeks, but still nearly double the number of vaccinations in late June and early July.
Aside from vaccination, Gov. DeSantis’ office has heavily promoted over two dozen monoclonal antibody treatment sites across the state. The governor pushed ahead for the treatment, sold by Regeneron, after hearing from hospital leaders that the antibodies could be used to improve the immune systems of people recently infected with COVID-19. The treatment is currently authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration and has been used on then-President Donald Trump.
However, an Associated Press story, published Aug. 18, pointed out that one of the governor’s top donors, Citadel, invested in the treatment. The article states that Citadel has $15.9 million in shares of Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc.
The governor responded with a letter from his office to AP on Aug. 23, saying that the purpose of the article was:
“…to smear me by insinuating that Florida’s push to expand awareness of and access to monoclonal antibody treatments was done to boost Regeneron’s profit, rather than to simply help Floridians in need.”
Health officials continue to encourage vaccinations despite the availability of the monoclonal antibody treatment. Watts said:
“Vaccine is still the best mitigation step to stop the spread of the virus.”