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Tampa Bay hospitals work to get ahead of a COVID-19 surge in the next months

While cases climb, hospitals are making sure PPE and treatments are stocked and ready.

TAMPA, Fla — The need for hospital beds to treat those with COVID-19 is dire across the country as cases rise.

"We have about 10 million cases, 240,000 deaths. When people are going to be congregating out of necessity because of the weather indoors, that makes for an ominous situation," Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Over 3,000 Floridians are in the hospital being treated for COVID-19. More than 800 of them are in Tampa Bay. 

Mathematical modelers like Dr. Edwin Michael are forecasting the next spike in cases in our area. The epidemiologist, who used to provide mathematical simulations for the World Health Organization, predicts Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Polk counties combined will see 7,000 to 8,000 cases daily in December. Come late January, 15,000 a day.

"The new COVID cases are going to completely overwhelm the bed capacity, so they need to increase capacity," Edwin said.

Hospitals are now preparing for the potential surge.

"To be honest with you, I am worried because I do see the peak happening," Dr. Laura Arline with BayCare Health System said. 

She says the community has become too lax, abandoning mask wearing and social distancing. While cases climb, their hospitals are making sure PPE and treatments are stocked and ready.

Across the river, Tampa General Hospital has opened its permanent COVID-19 unit early. 

"Over the last week or two, we've seen an increase in the number of, really sick patients. Patients that ultimately have to be intubated, you'll have to place them on a ventilator to help them breathe, or they're on advanced modalities to help them breathe," Dr. Andrew Myers with Tampa General Hospital said.

With 59 fully-equipped ICU beds and up to 45 surge readiness beds, the Global Emerging Diseases institute should help with capacity.

"We haven't really gotten to our capacity at this point and we're working to expand our capacity. In GEDI we've got a couple of the floors that are open, and a couple more that we could still open if we needed to," Myers said.

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