The South Florida hospital chain is suspending scheduled surgeries and placing beds in conference rooms, classrooms and even a cafeteria as more patients seek treatment for COVID-19.
“We are seeing a surge in patient numbers like we haven’t seen before,” Memorial Healthcare System Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Napp said Wednesday at a press conference in Hollywood.
Napp said they have opened an additional 250 beds at six Memorial hospitals in Broward County.
Unlike last year’s spring and summer COVID spikes, when many sufferers tried to avoid hospitals for fear of contracting the virus, patients with other illnesses are now seeking treatment as well, Napp explained.
On Wednesday, more than 1600 inpatients with an overnight stay were admitted to the institutions of the system. Typically, the healthcare system serves no more than 1,400 inpatients at a time.
“This is the largest number of patients that Memorial has ever seen,” he said. “This pure number comes at the same time. There are only a certain number of beds, so many doctors, so many nurses, ”said Napp.
Across Florida, more than 12,000 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Wednesday, and nearly 2,500 of them were in intensive care beds. On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases in Florida over a three-day period, raising the seven-day average to one of the highest since the start of the pandemic. In total, the state has registered more than 2.6 million cases and 39,179 deaths.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has rejected calls to ensure compliance with the CDC’s recommendation that almost everyone should wear masks indoors until vaccination rates increase significantly. The Republican leader says the decision to camouflage or shoot should remain a personal choice, while keeping Florida’s economy moving is important.
“Florida is a free state, and we will empower our people. We will not allow Joe Biden and his bureaucratic lackeys to come and take over the rights and freedoms of Florida residents, ”said DeSantis, who is exploring the possibility of running for president in 2024, in a fundraising email Wednesday night.
At the Memorial, Napp said patients undergoing treatment for COVID-19 are largely unvaccinated.
The COVID-19 vaccines were designed to prevent serious illness and death, and none are 100% effective, so public health experts have always expected a small number of “breakthrough” cases with milder infections among those vaccinated. Some of those who fell ill with this latest wave took all the necessary precautions.
Fort Lauderdale retirees Doug and Judy Custer said they did everything they were told to prevent the spread of the virus. They were both vaccinated and continued to wear masks at the grocery store even when mandates were canceled.
So when 75-year-old Judy Caster had a sore throat a few weeks ago, she didn’t think about it. Even with the cough and fever, “it never occurred to me that it could be COVID,” she said.
Her 80-year-old husband also had coughs, chills, and terrible headaches. So after a friend informed her that several people they recently spoke to had tested positive, she took a COVID test at an emergency center, just in case. Her husband refused.
She was shocked when the test came back positive. Her husband’s condition deteriorated rapidly. He struggled to breathe and spent five days in the hospital, where he was given oxygen.
She began to feel better, but worried about her husband, a retired teacher. Since the hospitals are now overcrowded, she was not allowed to visit him. Their daughter flew home to help.
“Continue to exercise caution and caution and take all possible measures. Even if you think you are immune to COVID, you are still vulnerable to it, ”she said in a telephone interview.
“If you choose not to get vaccinated, it’s not just you,” she said, sitting next to her husband, who is still using oxygen and is slowly recuperating. “You make life difficult for other people and bring us back to normal life in our country.”
“There is immunization. We had enough time to know that he helps people, even if they get sick. Like us, you are less likely to have mechanical ventilation, you are less likely to be hospitalized, ”she said. “I was not hospitalized. You are less likely to get such a serious illness. “