TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – Researchers at the University of South Florida are predicting a severe hospital bed shortage if local residents don’t take more serious steps in practicing social distancing.
A new report from the university outlines COVID-19’s impact on hospitals in Hillsborough County if measures aren’t taken to follow social distancing guidelines.
Researchers from the University of South Florida created a model demonstrating a demand for hospital beds that could significantly exceed their availability unless social distancing measures are widely followed for two months.
In Hillsborough County, there are a total of 4,060 hospital beds. According to the report, if residents don’t reduce the number of different people they come in contact with each day by at least 45 percent, the number of hospitalized patients will more than double the total hospital beds by June.
That’s not factoring in the number of patients hospitalized for unrelated health conditions.
Eventually, researchers say, when medical professionals develop a way to rapidly identify and isolate infectious individuals through testing and contact tracing, population-wide social distancing measures may no longer be needed.
Until then, USF College of Public Health Professor Thomas Unnasch says having as many people as possible follow social distancing recommendations and orders will be the only way to keep the pandemic from overwhelming the health care system in Tampa Bay.
According to the most recent data by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, current bed occupancy in the state is 62 percent. Nearly two-thirds of the 6,000 ICU beds are already taken after more than 1,200 people have been hospitalized for the virus so far.
In Hillsborough County, that number is even higher with ICU bed occupancy at 66 percent in Hillsborough County.
Based on the severity of the conditions, patients hospitalized with COVID-19 spend between four and 10 days in the hospital.
This week, as Florida cases exceed 9,500 and the death toll rises to 163, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a 30-day statewide stay-at-home order. A week ago, Hillsborough County issued a safer-at-home order, directing residents to remain at home until further notice, with some exceptions.
“Stay-at-home orders will work if people pay attention and we will be able to reduce infections to the point where the hospital system could care for everyone who falls ill,” said Unnasch. “It will be better to get quality care in a hospital than lying in a tent set up in a parking lot.”
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