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

Data from the Florida Health Care Administration shows county hospitals are at 14-percent capacity and only three adult ICU beds are available.

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — County leaders say a lack of social distancing and people not using masks are driving an influx of coronavirus cases.

“People are on top of people, on top of people, and on top of people, and then we sit there and wonder, ‘Why do we get these positive cases uptick,’” said Andy Fossa, Pasco County’s Director of Emergency Management.

Since moving into Phase Two, county leaders have noticed a change in behavior. Just like other places across the state, more people are out and crowds are gathering.

“Unfortunately, the citizens took it as an open gate and it's like opening a gate for cattle and watching this all just get together and funnel through. That's what we're seeing,” Fossa said.

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Fossa says the new uptick makes them uneasy. In about two weeks, Pasco County’s coronavirus cases have gone up by more than 1,400. Bringing the total of those testing positive to almost 2,000.

“The county's very concerned. We keep in very good contact with our community partners, the hospitals, fire rescue, law enforcement. Over this last week the hospitals have been hitting capacity, not going into a surge mode, but getting to that point where they're out of beds,” Fossa said.

Data from the Florida Health Care Administration shows county hospitals are at 14 percent capacity and only three adult ICU beds are available. Fossa says if coronavirus cases surge in a few weeks, the county is ready.

“There is a plan in place for Pasco County. There is. We've made agreements with hotels; we've made agreements with resorts in order to house those types of patients. We're at that point now that I’ve been in contact with the state saying, ‘Hey, I got a brand-new health care facility that has not been opened yet. That's totally empty. We can use that as a long-term care COVID positive facility.’ We knew it was not going to go away. We knew there was going to be a second surge of issues,” Fossa said.

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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