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Hospitals concerned about ICU bed capacity as Hillsborough County coronavirus cases increase

Investigations

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The coronavirus numbers are rapidly racing in the wrong direction in one of the most populous counties in the entire state.

8 On Your Side has been keeping a close eye on all the COVID-19 numbers in the Tampa Bay area. Right now, there are signs that the situation is growing bleaker in one county – Hillsborough.

Lynne York lives in Pinellas County and considers herself one of the lucky ones who was able to track down a COVID-19 test on Wednesday in the Tampa Bay area.

“There’s four of us now showing the same symptoms,” she said.

Now, York is on pins and needles waiting for her results.

“I have high blood pressure and it kept spiking,” she said. “I think due to the anxiety of not being able to get a test.”

Meanwhile, over the bridge in Hillsborough County, a lot of test takers just got bad news.

According to the Florida Department of Health, one in five patients who got their results back on Tuesday had COVID-19. That’s a positivity rate of 20 percent.

Hillsborough County’s percent positive rate for the past two weeks. (FDOH)

In recent days, that number has been steadily climbing in the wrong direction. Statewide, the percent of positive cases reached 15.91% on Tuesday.

Percent positivity is an indicator that matters. Gov. Ron DeSantis has frequently talked and tweeted about the percent of cases coming back positive.

Intensive care bed capacity is another important indicator, and another number that 8 On Your Side closely tracks.

On Wednesday morning, we saw the number of available ICU beds briefly drop to just 5% in Hillsborough County.

“The concern in the next week is, are you going to have enough bed capacity for ICUs,” said Dr. John Greene, the chief of infectious diseases at Moffitt.

Dr. Greene says hospitals and administrators are preparing for the potential of more serious cases.

“I would say hospitals and all of their administrators are very concerned, they communicate with each other, and everybody is seeing the same increase in filling up their hospitals with coronavirus patients,” said Dr. Greene.

Dr. Greene says hospitals can quickly create more ICU beds.

He also says administrators have learned a lot from the first spike. This time, Dr. Greene says they are veterans armed with more knowledge.

Dr. Greene believes hospitals will be a safe environment for health care professionals. Additionally, he believes, the mortality rates will be lower.

If you have a tip or something you want 8 On Your Side to look into regarding this pandemic, please email investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.

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