Miami, Aug 10 (EFE).- Florida set a new record on Tuesday for the number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in the Sunshine State, with 15,169 now hospitalized, 1,192 more than the previous day, which had also set a record.
The spiking hospitalization figures are putting additional pressure on healthcare personnel and the hospital system in a state that is suffering like few others from the ravages of the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
The focus of Florida authorities continues to be on the state’s intensive care units, where the new pandemic wave has resulted in 89.77 percent of the state’s available ICU beds being filled, 47.14 percent of them with Covid patients.
Throughout the United States, hospitalizations due to the coronavirus on Tuesday totaled 73,300, with Florida having 20.7 percent of that figure as well as 17.9 percent (3,060) of the nation’s 17,140 ICU patients.
According to the ABC television network, amid this scenario, Florida health authorities have asked the federal administration to send 300 ventilators to replace “old inventory” in different hospitals around the state, although there has been no word as yet on how those units will be distributed or allocated.
So far, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – which on Monday announced new records in Florida for infections over the weekend, with 28,316 new cases on Saturday and 28,317 new cases on Sunday – has not provided figures for newly confirmed cases on Monday and Tuesday.
The Florida Department of Health questioned the figures provided by the CDC and said that, according to its own tally, there were 19,567 new coronavirus cases on Saturday and 15,319 on Sunday.
At a press conference in Jacksonville, Gov. Ron DeSantis alluded to the discrepancy in the weekend figures, saying that authorities were investigating the matter.
The Republican insisted that the resurgence in cases is part of a cyclical trend in the virus and expressed his own doubts about whether there will start to be a shortage of healthcare personnel working in Florida hospitals, as some media outlets have reported, but he promised to discuss the matter with health officials.
Amid the surge in cases, which almost every day are setting new records, DeSantis is maintaining his prohibition on school districts imposing obligatory facemask use rules at schools, although the CDC has suggested that move to keep the number of infections down when classes resume in the coming weeks.
The governor’s office has even warned that the state Board of Education could suspend the pay of school principals who defy DeSantis’s executive order banning facemasks.
That has proved to be no obstacle to Alachua, Duval and Broward Counties, which have demanded that facemasks be used by all students and teachers when the new school year starts.
In Broward County – the main city within which is Fort Lauderdale – members of the local school board confirmed on Tuesday in a special session that facemasks will be required in all schools there, thus going against the state health department, which is leaving to parents the decision whether to have their children wear facemasks.
In Palm Beach County, classes began on Tuesday for more than 167,000 students and school superintendant Michael Burke confirmed that the students must wear facemasks, although parents will have the option to instruct their children not to wear them.
However, Burke called on parents to take into account the highly contagious Delta variant in making that decision, expressing his hope that the great majority of students will wear facemasks, a protocol that will be evaluated after a month’s time and in accordance with the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
In Surfside, where DeSantis delivered $1,000 checks to emergency personnel who searched for survivors and bodies in the collapsed Champlain Towers South condominium, the governor mentioned concerns about the Delta variant among school children, with only kids over age 12 currently eligible to receive one of the anti-Covid vaccines.
He said that if one looks at the overall pandemic picture, since the virus hit the US between 1.1 percent and 1.4 percent of Covid patients in Florida hospitals have been children, adding that right now the figure is 1.3 percent, and so no change in the proportion of children who are being admitted to medical centers is being seen.
Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried, who each day reports the number of newly detected coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, said on her Twitter account that “Floridians are rejecting the unconstitutional threats by our governor. This is what freedom and democracy is all about.”
Also on Tuesday in a statement, Fried hailed the comments made Tuesday by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who suggested that the Joe Biden administration could pay the school principals who find themselves deprived of their salaries by DeSantis for requiring the use of facemasks by their student bodies.