TAMPA, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida is in a better place now than it would have been months ago had we seen the same sort of surge in COVID-19 cases. More medicine available. More ventilators and PPE.
What we need, said DeSantis, is more doctors, nurses and health care workers to treat those patients.
On Monday, he tried to explain what’s behind a looming shortage, and why it’s perhaps the state’s biggest concern.
“The issue is how the personnel can be used,” said DeSantis.
This past Thursday, the governor asked Vice President Mike Pence to send more medical professionals to Florida.
“We put in that request. We think it will be favorably granted,” said DeSantis. “And we hope to have some folks down.”
The governor insists Florida has enough medicine, equipment and bed space available.
What we may not have, he says, is enough manpower to provide the full COVID-19 treatment for asymptomatic patients coming to the hospital for other issues in regions like Miami-Dade County.
“They have almost 40 percent of the people that come in for non-COVID things, like car accidents in childbirth are testing positive,” he said.
DeSantis says they’re also working with the White House to ensure an uninterrupted flow of steroid therapies and medicines like Remdesivir.
At the same time, more of Florida’s health care professionals are being sidelined by the virus.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of asymptomatic employees and students,” said Dave Nelson, President of the University of Florida’s healthcare system.
Nelson says the infection rate is still lower than the general population but is up nearly tenfold in the past few weeks.
“We went from .1 percent, 0.1,” he said, “to 1 percent.”
In regions like Hillsborough County, where they reported a 27 percent increase a week ago, they’re now trying to reduce the stress on the system - and staff - by admitting only the sickest patients, said USF Health’s Dr. Jason Wilson.
“But if you are another person who has COVID and you don’t require oxygen, we’re probably going to discharge you from the hospital,” said Wilson. “Whereas before we would’ve looked at some other markers and indicators to see if you need admission.”
The governor’s office has not yet said how many medical personnel have been requested or where exactly they would be sent. But given Florida’s per capita infection rate - now tracking at the same pace New York was months ago, said Wilson, public health workers agree there’s a growing sense of urgency.
“We’ve now caught up in the race and are driving at the same speed,” said Wilson. “Kind of where they were in the race at the race car. And that’s the part that’s concerning to us right now is that we are tracking kind of along the same direction.”
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