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Pasco County keeping close eye on hospital capacity and ICU bed availability

As of Wednesday afternoon, there were just five ICU beds open in Pasco County.

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — With coronavirus cases surging in Florida, communities across the state are coming up with ways to slow the spread.

From mask mandates to alcohol bans and shutting down beaches, community leaders and businesses are trying to prevent the rapid transmission of COVID-19 in the Sunshine State.

The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration keeps a running tally of how many ICU beds are available in each county.

At the time of this article, Pasco County was down to just five available ICU beds. They have a capacity of 127 but 122 of them are occupied.

10 Tampa Bay reached out to the major hospitals in the county. 

AdventHealth West Florida Division, which operates four hospitals accounting for 23 ICU beds in the county said:

All hospitals in the AdventHealth West Florida Division are closely and continuously monitoring positive COVID-19 cases in their facility. We currently have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for our team members, patients and guests, as well as available med-surg beds, ICU beds and ventilators, should they be needed. The planning and protocols we put in place earlier this year, including strict safety guidelines, quarantining of COVID-19 patients in designated units and care areas, and enhanced cleaning measures, has well-positioned us to respond and ensure the continued high quality care for our community. It is important to note, that while cases are increasing, we are not experiencing a surge in patients who require hospitalization due to COVID-19 but we remain prepared to take care of any patient in need of our services.

HCA West Florida Division operates Medical Center of Trinity and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point accounting for 82 ICU beds. They responded to our questions via e-mail saying:

1)    Are the hospitals seeing an increase in COVID-19 patients?  

We are seeing an increase in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 that began late last week at both Medical Center of Trinity and Regional Medical Center of Bayonet Point, as well as, across much of Tampa Bay and the state.  Both hospitals have sufficient resources to care for the community and both hospitals are open and safe and fully operational.  

2)    How many of the ICU beds are being occupied by a COVID-19 patient?  

 COVID-19 patients account for a small number of ICU patients. 

3)    When a patient needs an ICU bed and there aren’t any available, what does the hospital do?  

Hospitals have the ability to adjust to changing situations and do so constantly, based on patient needs.  Medical Center of Trinity and Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point have the ability to expand ICU capabilities when needed.  At this time, while ICU levels are high, both hospitals have sufficient resources and are ready and able to expand capacity if needed.

We haven't heard back from BayCare who owns and operates Morton Plant North Bay Hospital which has 2 of their 22 ICU beds available.

Andy Fossa, Director of Emergency Management in Pasco County said, "The county is very concerned. We keep in very good contact with our community partners- the hospitals, fire rescue, law enforcement, and over this last week the hospitals have been hitting capacity not going into a surge mode but getting to that point that they’re out of beds."

RELATED: 'There is a plan': Pasco County officials prepared to make changes as hospital capacity declines

In about two weeks, Pasco County’s coronavirus cases have gone up by more than 1,500 bringing the total of those testing positive to 2,119.

A spokesperson with Pasco County Government sent 10 Tampa Bay a statement saying, "only about 10% of patients in Pasco’s ICUs are COVID positive."

Back in early May, Dr. Jill Roberts a professor at USF College of Public Health reviewed some of the surveillance data from the Florida Department of Health. 

She honed in on Pasco County and thought their low case numbers were a red flag. At the time, Pasco was reporting 281 positive residents and 9 just deaths. They now have more than 2,000 cases and 21 deaths.

Back in May, Roberts said, "My bigger concern is that they’re not testing so what I’d like to see is total testing numbers. Are they doing as much testing as they should be in Pasco County? Are they actually detecting the cases?"

RELATED: Two months tracking COVID-19 in Tampa Bay: Here’s what we know

We reached out to the Pasco Department of Health for insight as to why there's been a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks and whether the county did enough testing in April and May when the number of cases being reported was low.

Pasco County does have a mask mandate in place. County leaders are hoping that will curve their cases down in a few weeks.

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