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Orlando leaders: Surge of COVID patients needing oxygen prompts water conservation warning

Liquid oxygen is used in the water treatment process and if people don't conserve water, quality could suffer.

ORLANDO, Fla. — There's such great demand for liquid oxygen in Central Florida, especially for COVID patients, that authorities are asking residents to immediately stop watering their lawns.

It would help if people ceased car washes and pressure washing, too, leaders added.

The Orlando Utilities Commission posted the notice to the community Friday, saying area hospital systems need increasing supplies of liquid oxygen to treat people fighting COVID-19. The utility is sounding the alarm because it uses liquid oxygen in its water treatment process.

And if people don't limit their water use now, it could affect water quality later.

"Ozone (liquid oxygen or LOX) is the strongest oxidizer available and reduces the amount of chlorine that must be added in the water treatment process. When LOX is added, the result is clean, fresh-tasting water with a sparkling appearance," the utility says on its website.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said there's another way people can help ease the burden on hospitals: get vaccinated.

"Our hospitals are experiencing the highest number of unvaccinated critically ill patients at this point, as any other point during a pandemic. Many of these patients require liquid oxygen for their respiratory treatment," Dyer said during a news conference, WKMG-TV reported.

The Orlando Utilities Commission said it has been adjusting chlorination feed rates to reduce the need for liquid oxygen, but it does not have the capacity to solely use chlorine.

Leaders expect conservation measures to continue for at least two weeks.

Compounding the issue statewide, Florida Hospital Association’s president and CEO told 10 Tampa Bay last week that there aren’t enough drivers to transport all medical oxygen.

“Our understanding with oxygen companies is the lack of access to drivers. And these are not just any drivers. This is medical oxygen. These drivers have to be HAZMAT certified commercial drivers. It is a dangerous supply that they are transporting,” Mary Mayhew explained to Jenna Bourne.