DeSantis: More Hospital Beds Free Than Before Pandemic; Elective Surgeries Could Return

Apr 27, 2020
Originally published on April 25, 2020 1:31 pm

At a Saturday morning press conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the overall trend for hospitalizations for COVID-19 in the state is “going in a good direction.”

In the last week, DeSantis said only 7.5% of people positive for coronavirus needed to be hospitalized.  

Statewide, 41% of hospital beds remain open.

“To put that in perspective, that’s significantly more availability in both the regular hospital beds and ICU beds than we had before the pandemic began,” DeSantis said.

However, large gatherings of people are not returning next month.  

“We’re not doing in-person sports yet no matter what, “ DeSantis said. “I mean, that’s just not gonna happen in May.”

The governor also said he’s not ready to open up enclosed environments like movie theatres, despite Phase 1 of President Trump’s reopening plan, which includes opening theaters with social distancing guidelines.

Related: Local, State, And National Coronavirus Coverage

Bars in the state will remain closed, too.  

DeSantis said he’s ordering the state Department of Health to purchase high-throughput machines for state labs to process tests quicker.

The high-throughput machines allow for more large-scale testing at once.

Florida has three state labs that process testing in Jacksonville, Tampa, and Miami.

“They do a good job, but they’re only able to process hundreds of samples a day. It’s their maximum,” DeSantis said. “We want high throughputs so we can do a significant amount in the state labs.”

DeSantis said the machines would arrive in May, and they will increase the amount of tests processed per day at the labs to around 10,000 by this summer.

And a shipment of antibody tests is coming to Florida on May 1, according to DeSantis. He did not say where exactly the antibody tests would go once they were with the state.  

On Friday, DeSantis ordered Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees to allow licensed pharmacists to administer COVID-19 tests.

To increase the availability for testing in underserved communities, DeSantis said he is expanding the walk-up testing sites that started in Jacksonville with UF Health, making the sites more widely available in Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, and Hillsborough Counties.

In a week, the walk-up sites have conducted over 4,000 tests, according to DeSantis.

For long-term facilities, DeSantis said there are more than 50 National Guard teams across the state testing residents and staff. The teams have done a combined 5,000 tests so far.

DeSantis said he is going to look at reopening elective surgeries across the state, as the numbers of available hospital beds remain high. His executive order that bars elective surgeries runs through May 8.

“These elective procedures really do effect patients health,” DeSantis said. “You’re talking about screening, you’re talking about things that are really important. I understand why this was done, because we didn’t know what was coming down the pipe. But the fact that we have availability and can accommodate it, I think we do need to move in that direction.”

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.

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