Florida hospitals ‘cautiously optimistic’ as COVID cases dip slightly

Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 8:03 AM EDT
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MIAMI (AP) — The number of patients with coronavirus in Florida hospitals continues to drop as infection rates stay high, a sign that while more people are testing positive for the virus, they are not necessarily developing severe illness.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services tallied 15,488 patients with COVID-19 in Florida hospitals, an 8% decrease over the past week. Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report a 7-day average of 21,489 new cases per day in the state, not far from its recent peak of 21,761.

On Monday, Sarasota Memorial Hospital reported 277 COVID-positive patients, a drop from 291 last week. Of those, 83% were unvaccinated.

Sixty-eight of those were in intensive care, down from 69 last week, data show.

SMH has treated 4,847 patients for COVID-19; 4,002 have been admitted. Three SMH patients have recently died, bringing the total number of deaths blamed on COVID-19 to 344.

Statewide, hospital officials are cautiously optimistic.

“It looks like if that holds we are on the down slope right now, but it’s been a very unpredictable virus,” said Justin Senior, CEO of the Florida Safety Net Hospital Alliance, which represents some of the largest hospitals in the state. “Overall, the state is still really elevated ... but I think it’s heading in the right direction.”

At Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, the numbers are also slowly trickling down, although Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hany Atallah remained on alert.

“Definitely don’t let down your guard. We are not out of the woods yet,” he said, noting that when the vaccinated stopped wearing masks, the unvaccinated followed and soon there wasn’t social distancing or washing of hands.

He stressed the delta variant is highly contagious and that patients are getting sicker faster, especially young patients. And 90% of their COVID patients are unvaccinated.

“Please keep wearing your masks, please get vaccinated. These are things we know that work, hand washing, social distancing ... We’ve got to be diligent about this.”

With the delta variant, regular COVID patients are being hospitalized for about five days, whereas the typical ICU COVID patient was admitted for around 15 days. The number of ICU patients with COVID is still at around 3,500, which Senior says is to be expected as they take more time to be discharged.

Freeing up ICU beds for non-COVID cases is critical as many hospitals across the state have postponed nonemergency surgeries for the past four to five weeks. Experts say those need to resume in the coming weeks to prevent those patients from ending up in the emergency rooms.

-- The ABC7 Digital Desk contributed to this story.

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