FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – As Florida continues to break new daily records for COVID-19 cases, emergency departments in some areas are so overcrowded that doctors are sending patients home with small oximeters portable pulse and oxygen so they can free up beds for sicker patients.
Dr Leonardo Alonso, an emergency physician who alternates between two Jacksonville hospitals, said on Wednesday that it is usually a laborious and expensive bureaucratic process to send oxygen home with patients. But he hopes a new protocol will help ease the tension.
“A lot of people just need oxygen,” Alonso said. “The only reason they’re hospitalized is because they need oxygen. “
He explained that it took a patient an hour to get the oxygen to take home.
“The patient sat in the room for eight hours,” he said. “The next one, 10 am and never got it, and had to be admitted.”
On Tuesday, the state reported 24,753 more cases of COVID-19 to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seven-day moving average of new cases in Florida was 21,156 on Tuesday, up from an average of less than 2,000 new cases in early July.
Since the start of the pandemic, Florida has recorded at least 2,806,813 confirmed cases of COVID and more than 40,100 deaths, the CDC reported.
The Baptist Health System in Jacksonville reported 584 COVID patients at its five hospitals on Wednesday.
“I think we have COVID-related fatigue at this point,” said Dr. Timothy Groover, the hospital’s acting chief medical officer. “People heard that I had to get the vaccine, I had to wear masks which, frankly, we saw as an inconvenience. Now people keep on wandering, they are engaged in great events and I think there is a level of comfort here that is misguided. “
Statewide, the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 also continued to rise on Wednesday. Florida has reported 15,071 patients treated for the virus. People hospitalized are largely unvaccinated and younger than those seen in hospitals during last summer’s outbreak, doctors said.
As emergency departments are taken by storm with COVID patients and people being treated for non-COVID emergencies, Alonso said they are also experiencing an increase in the number of people coming to be tested for the virus.
“Try to avoid an emergency service,” Alonso advised.
He said that last year people were generally afraid to go to hospitals and that there were mass testing centers statewide where people could get tested for COVID-19.
That’s why he’s encouraging officials statewide to expand testing sites in addition to their vaccination campaigns. He noted that this week he went to a pharmacy to purchase a COVID home test kit when his wife fell with a cold.
“We couldn’t get any. They were all out.
Follow AP’s coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic.