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Florida and COVID-19: It's all about the numbers... and patience


Globally, 1.25 million people die in car crashes annually. But in just a few months, the novel coronavirus has already claimed 81,000 lives globally, with numbers still on the rise. With the coronavirus pandemic now striking the United States, the nation is in the midst of a health crisis. Early mitigation steps that included travel bans and social distancing protocols haven’t stopped the virus from spreading to all 50 states. Florida is on record as one of the hardest-hit states, ranking number seven in terms of the total number of confirmed cases.

Florida's Cases By the Numbers

As of Tuesday evening, the Florida Department of Health added 1,118 new confirmed cases, bringing the total number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 statewide to 14,747. The number of fatalities also grew by 42 since Monday evening, with COVID-19 now claiming 296 lives as of Thursday. Florida’s nursing homes and assisted living facilities remain the most vulnerable, with 323 workers and residents testing positive as of Monday evening.

Unfortunately, it seems like the worst is yet to come with forecasts predicting cases will peak in early May. Florida hospitals are now scrambling as they get ready for the expected surge in patients. Health officials have already ordered more supplies than needed to cushion against the rising demand. There’s also the continued message of social distancing and self-isolation to minimize the spread of the virus.

There are areas of Florida that remain hotspots. Over 50% of all cases are in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, and Broward counties. These are the same areas where the majority of testing is being done. At a post-legislative session press conference, Governor Ron DeSantis told media personnel that other counties are reporting zero or single-digit cases.

What the State Government is Doing

The main issue lies in identifying all those patients who are asymptomatic yet COVID-19 positive. The governor is pushing to expand testing throughout the state to get at any underlying and unseen positive carriers. By getting more tests out, the state hopes to identify infection trends and address them before any further spread. Meanwhile, the state has already set up 17 in-state sites to test for COVID-19. Some regions such as Lee, Collier, Orange, and Tampa Bay counties have mobile labs and more hospitals doing tests hence an uptick in cases.

The surge in testing has put a strain on the supplies needed to collect samples. Jared Moskowitz, Florida’s emergency management director, has stated that his strategy lies in getting all the necessary resources for efficient testing. He has already received and disbursed 2,500 COVID-19 testing kits; this step has helped establish a drive-through testing center at Broward County’s Memorial Regional Hospital. The hospital has its reputable lab that has already processed 465 samples.

Coordination and Preparedness Are Key

Coordinating the logistics of supplying the necessary medical supplies to meet the rising demand remains one of Moskowitz’s core duties. Distribution of equipment such as ventilators, respirators, hand sanitizers, and personal protective equipment is vital. The director has requested more mobile field units and even U.S. Navy hospital ships to help meet the surge in numbers.

Going by current data, the state government needs to plan ahead. While it seems like the orders for equipment are a bit extreme, the state doesn’t expect to receive it all. Other states and the federal government are all competing for the same equipment causing a sharp rise in demand with not nearly enough supply. Since more severe cases require hospitalization, Mr. Moskowitz has ordered an extra 5,000 beds with state health officials looking for surplus building space that can be converted into new hospital wards.

Extra Steps Being Taken

In Miami, the Jose Milton family and United Property Management donated 300 apartments for health workers at the Jackson Health System. These units were given out free of charge and will serve as a temporary shelter for all the medical members of staff on the frontline of the pandemic. Before the donation, nurses and some doctors were living in their cars or sleeping in their offices to avoid spreading the disease to their families.

The Miami Beach Convention Center will also be retrofitted to house patients if area hospitals get overwhelmed. A federal contractor has been hired to construct a 400-bed capacity facility with 50 intensive care beds for COVID-19 patients. The center is expandable to 1,000 beds with expected completion by April 21. Private labs haven’t taken a back seat either as they embark on massive testing.

The Case of Minority Communities

Adults who partake in over seven hours of physical activity each week could have a longer life expectancy. However, factors such as race and socioeconomic status may be affecting the prognosis for COVID-19 survival in Florida and other parts of the country. Health experts now warn that there could be an explosion of new cases in minority communities.

Preliminary data shows that COVID-19 is hitting black Americans particularly hard. Patchy government data collection may, however, prevent resources from flowing down to the communities most affected by the disease. Five counties in Florida have revealed that Black and Latino COVID-19 patients are being hospitalized more frequently and are dying at higher rates than white patients. That said, the Florida Department of Health has maintained that the racial disparity has not yet revealed itself in the Sunshine State.

The reason isn’t that people from these communities are more susceptible to the virus. The reality is that they face higher risks for severe or potentially fatal complications. People of color are already over-represented in terms of pre-existing conditions that make COVID-19 so deadly. These are conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, hypertension, and asthma.

It’s a Matter of Patience

Around 22% of slip and fall accidents result in more than 31 days off work, but COVID-19 has kept Americans home from work indefinitely. The hope is that the number of cases will peak soon and start coming down, but it’s still a matter of sitting tight and waiting it out. In the meantime, staying at home, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, and maintaining social distancing are the best weapons against the pandemic. Keep safe and be patient; the storm may yet subside.

Actions, COVID-19, florida, Preparation, update


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