State Watch

Florida county declares pandemic state of emergency amid hospital resource shortage

A Florida county voted unanimously on Tuesday to declare a state of emergency as hospitals are becoming increasingly strained amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay proposed issuing the emergency order after all 12 beds in the intensive care unit (ICU) at a local medical center became occupied, 11 of which were for patients with COVID-19, according to NBC 5 WPTV.

McKinlay said that some ambulances have been forced to wait outside hospitals for hours with sick patients because emergency rooms are full. 

The shortage of ICU beds reportedly forced medical workers to send emergency room patients to facilities in Miami, Orlando and other cities in the state.

In some cases, however, neighboring hospitals have not taken in extra patients. Darcy Davis, the CEO of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County, recalled one instance in which Lakeside Medical Center called 13 hospitals in the county asking them to accept a COVID-19 patient, and none of them would.

“There are so many patients, it’s overwhelming a lot of the hospitals,” Davis said, according to NBC 5 WPTV.

McKinlay on Tuesday, during the county commission meeting, said “we do not have the resources available right now in our community to address the needs in certain parts of our community,” NBC 5 WPTV reported.

Officials said the new emergency order will allow the county to bring in more medical workers from other areas of the state and country and will also instruct private health care systems to publish real-time data regarding the availability of COVID-19 hospital beds, according to the local news station.

Palm Beach County Health Director Alina Alonso reported that the county has seen 9,159 new COVID-19 cases from Aug. 6 through Aug. 12, a positivity rate of 17.8 percent, according to NBC 5 WPTV.

The figure marks a significant increase from numbers recorded from May 28 through June 3, which saw 719 new cases and a daily positivity rate of 3.2 percent, according to the local news station.

The state of emergency declaration is the second of its kind in Palm Beach County. The region was under such conditions from March 13, 2020, until June 26, 2021, when it was lifted as the spread of the virus decreased.

The new order comes as Florida and the U.S. as a whole are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, largely driven by the highly infectious delta variant.

The strain has taken hold as the most dominant variant in the country. The U.S. is now averaging more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases per day, which is significantly more than the roughly 12,000 daily new infections it was tracking in June, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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