DeSantis, Hospital CEOs Seek to Calm Fears Over Hospital Availability Amid COVID-19 Increase

By Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.
August 5, 2021 Updated: August 6, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis urged Floridians to get medical treatment if they need to, and not be deterred by an increase in hospital cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.

“Hospitals are open in Florida. People who need medical treatment should not be afraid to go to their local hospital. They will have room for everyone who needs treatment,” DeSantis told The Epoch Times.

“We do not want anyone to be unduly alarmed by media coverage and be deterred from seeking medical treatment when they need it.”

DeSantis has been a vocal critic of media coverage on COVID-19, which is caused by the virus, in Florida, saying at a press conference on Monday that media tends to “sensationalize COVID-19 headlines and stories.”

“They rely on the most alarming anecdotes from individuals who work in hospitals without verifying the capacity data, available beds, or providing context about the flexibilities hospitals have to meet their patients’ needs,” he said.

As of Aug. 5, the total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Florida was 12,888. Last summer the hospitalizations peaked on July 22 with 12,282 beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

On a conference call with the governor on Wednesday, Hospital CEOs stressed that hospitals still have sufficient capacity. They also said that not all patients were suffering from COVID-19 symptoms.

John Couris, President and CEO of Tampa General Hospital, suggested that Floridians “not delay care.”

“The hospitals are ready, and we’re able to take care of patients in a crisis and an emergency,” Couris told the group. “At TGH right now we have 126 COVID patients—we are a 1,041-bed hospital. That’s a little over 10 percent of our beds devoted right now to COVID patients.”

According to HHS data, as of Aug. 5, the state’s hospitals had more than 84 percent of beds occupied. COVID-19 patients accounted for around 25 percent of the occupied beds. The state had over 9,000 hospital beds available, according to the data.

Shane Strum, president and chief executive officer of Broward Health, said four in five patients in his system were not diagnosed with COVID-19.

“Talking about that average age, ours was in the low 70s last time. This time, it’s in the 50s, low 50s,” Strum told the governor Wednesday. “So, you see a big difference there. I think another critical or important number to share with you would be that 80 percent of our patient census is non-COVID patients.”

He added that in North Broward the average length of stay seen in unvaccinated patients being treated for COVID-19 has been 5-7 days.

Nineteen percent of hospitals that responded to a question about staffing on an HHS survey said they were experiencing critical staffing shortages. In July last year, that number was 40 percent among a smaller number of hospitals who answered the question.

According to Carlos Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Health System in Miami, nearly half of all vaccinated patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized for other causes, but tested positive with zero or mild symptoms. In total, 88 percent of the COVID-19 inpatients in the hospital were unvaccinated. Data shows that at Orlando Health, about 95 percent of COVID-19 inpatients were unvaccinated.

“The two messages here are really obvious: vaccinated people have a lot less potential of getting hospitalized—that’s extremely important,” Migoya said.

Hospitals administrators also say that the main vulnerable population now are the unvaccinated and people aged 40 to 64.

Speaking on the conference call, DeSantis said “about 84-90 percent of our seniors have been vaccinated.”

Petr Svab contributed to this report.

This article was updated on Aug. 6 to reflect that one of the statements by DeSantis was provided directly to The Epoch Times.

Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern
Jannis Falkenstern is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Florida.