What do COVID-19 numbers mean?

8% of Floridians who tested positive to date have been hospitalized

OKEECHOBEE — While the COVID-19 positive numbers in Florida increase each day, the percentage of COVID-19 positives who required hospitalization has decreased. The death rate has also declined.

According to Florida’s Community Coronavirus Dashboard (a private site that uses public Florida Department of Health data), as of July 14, 8% of Floridians who tested COVID-19 positive have been hospitalized, and 1.5% had died. A week ago, data showed 9% hospitalized and 1.9% died.

Statewide, since COVID-19 testing started in March, 18,881 Florida residents who tested positive have been hospitalized, according to FDOH. As of July 14, 8,051 were hospitalized. To date, 4,409 Florida residents who tested positive have died.

For the counties in South Central Florida:
• In Collier County, 8% of COVID-19 positive cases have been admitted to a hospital and 1.5% of total positive cases have died.
• In Glades County, 20% of COVID-19 positive cases have been admitted to a hospital and 0.5% of total positive cases have died.
• In Hendry County, 9% of COVID-19 positive cases have been admitted to a hospital and 2.3% of total positive cases have died.
• In Highlands County, 16% of COVID-19 positive cases have been admitted to a hospital and 2.3% have died.
• In Okeechobee County, 9% of COVID-19 positive cases have been admitted to a hospital and 0.4% have died.
• In Palm Beach County, 10% of COVID-19 cases have been admitted to a hospital and 1.9% of total positives have died.
• In Martin County, 9% of COVID-19 positive cases have been admitted to a hospital and 1.5% of total positives have died.

There are several theories as to why the death rate has declined. Doctors now have more experience treating the virus. The more they learn about the virus, the more effectively they can help new patients. The increase in testing may mean more people who have no symptoms or only very mild symptoms are being added to the positive totals, while at the start of the pandemic, the testing was limited to those with symptoms or had known contact with a COVID-19 positive person. Another theory is that the virus may be mutating.

ICU bed availability
Community leaders are keeping a watchful eye on the number of available Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds. The hospitals in some counties have run out of ICU bed space and sent patients to hospitals in other counties. However, not all COVID-19 patients require ICU beds, and some ICU beds are occupied by patients who are not COVID-19 positive.

As of July 14, the dashboard showed 1,152 available ICU beds in Florida — about 12% of all ICU beds in the state. Of the counties in the South Central Florida area, on July 14:
• Collier County had 22 ICU beds available, about 27.5% of the ICU beds in that county. Since March, 452 Collier County residents have been hospitalized for COVID-19; 188 are currently hospitalized. Of those who tested positive, 94 have died.
• Glades County does not have a hospital. Since March, 20 Glades County residents have been hospitalized for COVID-19. No Glades County residents are currently hospitalized for COVID-19. One Glades County resident who tested positive has died.
• Hendry County had zero ICU beds available. Since March, 107 Hendry County residents have been hospitalized for COVID. Currently, five Hendry County residents are hospitalized for COVID-19. Of the Hendry County residents who tested positive, 29 have died.
• Highlands County had two ICU beds available, about 7.7% of the ICU beds in the county. Since March, 85 Highlands County residents have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Currently, 45 Highlands County residents are hospitalized for COVID-19. Thirteen of those who tested positive have died.
• Martin County had 27 ICU beds available, about 69.2% of all ICU beds in the county. Since March, 235 Martin County residents have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Currently 48 Martin County residents are hospitalized for COVID-19. Forty-two COVID-19 positive Martin County residents have died.
• Okeechobee County had zero ICU beds available as of July 14. Since March, 46 Okeechobee County residents have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Currently, 14 Okeechobee County residents are hospitalized for COVID-19. Two COVID-19 positive Okeechobee County residents have died.
• Palm Beach County had 109 ICU beds available, about 25.6% of all ICU beds in the county. Since March, 2,057 Palm Beach County residents have been hospitalized for COVID-19. Currently, 622 Palm Beach County residents are hospitalized for COVID-19. Palm Beach County had 611 deaths of COVID-19 positive persons.

In April, the state was so concerned about a possible shortage of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, the governor asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build an alternate care facility in the Miami Beach Convention Center, and the corps began transforming part of the 500,000-square-foot facility into a 450-bed alternate care facility. The original plan for this facility was for it to serve as an overflow hospital for patients who were not COVID-19 positive. This facility has not yet been used as a hospital, and will likely not be used during the hurricane season.

According to the Florida State Emergency Operations Center Joint Information Center on COVID-19: “The state currently has a 450-bed field hospital staged at the Miami Beach Convention Center. A staged hospital means it is ready for use, but is not currently being used. It’s important to note field hospital facilities are designed to serve as overflow for area hospitals and are not intended to serve ICU or critical patients. Over the past several months, the state has worked continuously with local officials to monitor the need for resources to support area hospitals. At this time, mobile field hospitals consisting of tents may not be the best resource to deploy during hurricane season. Instead, our primary support strategy, if needed, is to surge staff into existing facilities — opening up additional capacity in those hospitals.​​ Currently, the Miami Beach Convention Center is being used as a COVID-19 state-supported testing site. The site offers antibody and PCR testing. The site is open for COVID-19 testing 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and can test individuals ages 18 and older, regardless of symptoms.”

The number of ICU beds available in Florida hospitals varies from day to day. FDOH data does not disclose how many of the ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and how many are occupied by patients with other life-threatening ailments such as accident injuries and heart attacks.

As of July 7, there were 1,265 open ICU beds in Florida, according to Florida’s Community Coronavirus Dashboard. Over the past week, that number went up and down with a low of less than 900 beds available and a high near 1,400. On July 14, there were 1,152 open ICU beds in the state.

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