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Florida Launching Field Hospitals To Prepare In Case Of 'Exponential Growth' In COVID-19 Patients

Governor Ron DeSantis, left, addresses media Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Florida Channel
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Governor Ron DeSantis, left, addresses media Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Credit Florida Channel
The Florida Channel
Governor Ron DeSantis, left, addresses media Wednesday, April 8, 2020

To prepare for worst-case scenarios where hospitals are overrun by COVID-19 patients, state officials are setting up field hospitals. Some are already operating, and more are in the works.

Governor Ron DeSantis says hospital capacity is holding at a statewide average of roughly 43 percent – but in some of the counties hardest hit by COVID-19, officials are setting up overflow facilities in anticipation of more hospitalizations. The good news, DeSantis says – even in those counties, hospitals still have available beds:

“Miami-Dade is 43 percent, Broward is almost 46 percent, Palm Beach 49 percent, Hillsborough 41 percent, Orange 44 percent, and Duval 47 percent,” the Governor said of capacity in the counties’ hospitals.

DeSantis was in Miami Beach alongside City leadership Wednesday to announce a 450-bed field hospital should be opening in the City’s convention center inside the next two weeks. Of those beds, 50 will be dedicated as an intensive care unit.

DeSantis says the facility will be staffed by 184 members of the Florida National Guard’s medical team, and described the personnel makeup:

“10 physicians, 19, physician assistants, five case managers, five social workers, 25 medical clerks, 25 housekeepers, a patient transporter, 25 EMT technicians, two medical assistants, 50 paramedics, 16 registered nurses and one licensed infection preventionist.”

The Miami Beach field hospital isn’t the first in Florida, or even the South Florida area where the majority of the state’s case shave been documented. And, DeSantis says, officials are eyeing locations for more in an effort to avoid overburdened hospitals throughout the state.

“Outside of Miami we have an additional four field hospitals as the need may be,” DeSantis said during an afternoon media briefing. “We have one that’s ready in Broward, another one that can be stood up very quickly in Palm Beach, and then we’re also looking on the west coast of Florida and potentially Northeast Florida.”

Ready to be deployed, the Governor added, are 4,300 hospital beds - more than 150 for intensive care units.

Meanwhile, in Miami-Dade County where nearly a third of all coronavirus cases in the state were concentrated as of Wednesday afternoon – Mayor Carlos Giménez says growth of cases is happening linearly.

“What I’ve seen, because we keep tabs on that, is that this is not exponential. This is not growing exponentially, it’s growing linearly,” Giménez said. “So, unless there is some exponential growth that I haven’t seen, the capacity that we have in our hospitals should be sufficient. But, some models show an exponential growth. So, we have to prepare for the exponential growth.”

Miami-Dade and surrounding counties have been under a stay-at-home order even before DeSantis issued a statewide directive on the first day of April.

Copyright 2020 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.