Waiting game: Public health experts sound alarm as coronavirus cases surge amid falling hospitalization and death rates

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – Florida reported another COVID-19 record on Friday with nearly 9,000 new cases, a 62% increase over Wednesday’s record high, and the fourth new highest total in the last eight days.

But the surge in cases has primarily come among young people while hospitalization and death rates have been steadily falling over the past month.

Still, public health experts are concerned, because even lower rates can overwhelm health systems if the numbers are high enough.

“So for those people who don’t have COVID – who have ‘just’ a heart attack, or ‘just’ a stroke, or need serious surgery, the hospital will be filled with COVID patients,” Dr. Wolfson says when asked what could happen if cases continue to climb. “And as we saw in March, April and May, those patients had to wait.”

There’s also been a two to three-week lag time between an increase in COVID-19 cases and more hospitalizations and deaths.

“What we’re concerned about of course is that those individuals are spreaders, and they could be super spreaders, because of the places they attend and hang out, and that they may bring it home with them as well,” said Dr. Wolfson.

The surge in cases has serious consequences for first responders — police, fire and rescue crews — as well as doctors, nurses and other health care workers.

Sade Reed is a Certified Nursing Assistant at Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg. She joined about 20 other protesters on Friday afternoon outside the hospital to complain about what they say is a lack of personal protective equipment, or PPE.

“It’s definitely gotten better than what it was in the beginning, but it’s still being rationed off,” said Reed. “I’m worried about myself, definitely, and especially my daughter, who suffers from asthma. I don’t want to take this infection home to her.”

Joe Loguercio transports patients within the hospital. He said PPE is in supply for staff like him.

“Actually in the beginning, we were short,” said Loguercio. Now, we definitely have the gowns. We can get an N95 mask if we require one. For me, there’s no problem right now.”

A spokesperson for Northside Hospital send a statement to 8 On Your Side about the protest, which reads in the relevant part:

In the midst of a global shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), Northside Hospital has been doing everything in our power to protect our caregivers and patient care teams throughout the pandemic and equip them to provide safe, effective care to our patients by following or exceeding Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols. We have provided appropriate PPE, including a universal masking policy requiring all caregivers in all areas to wear masks, including N95s, in line with CDC guidance. While we currently have adequate supplies of PPE, we continue to provide safeguards that are consistent with CDC guidelines and help ensure the protection of our colleagues, not only today, but into the future as the pandemic evolves. The SEIU fails to recognize the reality all hospitals nationwide are facing, that this pandemic has strained the worldwide supply of PPE, including masks, face shields, and gowns. This is especially surprising since the SEIU itself fell victim to an alleged N95 manufacturing scam that is now part of a U.S. Justice Department investigation.

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