The Florida Department of Health reported 186 new deaths due to COVID-19 on Tuesday, marking the state’s highest single-day death toll since the beginning of the pandemic. At least 6,116 people in the state have now died from the disease, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.
There are now at least 441,977 total confirmed coronavirus cases in Florida, with 9,243 new cases since Monday, according to the state’s Department of Health. The Sunshine State surpassed New York — a former hotspot that reported nine COVID-19 fatalities on Tuesday — in total confirmed cases Saturday.
Florida needs about 2,000 additional nurses to fulfill requests from hospitals, but had only found about half as many as of July 23, reports “CBS This Morning” lead national correspondent David Begnaud. Miami-Dade, the most populous county in Florida, had more hospitals put in requests for additional nurses than any other county in the state.
Dr. David De La Zerda, the ICU director of Jackson Memorial, one of the largest hospitals in the state, told Begnaud last week that his department would soon be 100% full. The hospital had to open a fifth ICU to handle the influx of patients.
Despite the increase in deaths and crowded ICUs, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis presented an optimistic outlook on Tuesday. DeSantis said during a press conference at AdventHealth hospital in Orlando that about 20% of all ICU beds are available statewide, and emergency departments across the state have seen a decline in visits for COVID-like illness.
“We’ve seen a stabilization, or decline, in the COVID hospital census at hospitals throughout the state, which again is another positive signal compared to where we were a couple weeks ago,” the governor said.
DeSantis praised the state’s outbreak response, and noted that another 500 cases, or 20,000 vials, of remdesivir, the only drug approved to treat COVID-19, are currently on their way to Florida, thanks to help from the federal government.
“We worked very closely with the White House to be able to continue replenishing the supply of remdesivir,” he said.
When asked how his message of stability squares with the state’s record number of COVID-19 deaths, the governor said the uptick is likely due to a delay.
“I think when you see those reports, those are probably reflective of infections and hospitalizations that have happened in the past, so it’s more of a lagging indicator,” DeSantis said. “Where as I think the ED visits, and some of the hospitals censuses, is probably more of a leading indicator of where things are trending.”
“And so, as you have fewer ED visits, as you have fewer COVID positive patients in the hospital, we think… you’ll see mortality decrease as well,” he added.
All Florida residents are still advised to wear masks in public and socially distance, as well as avoid any crowds, closed spaces or close contact, according to a public health advisory issued June 22.
DeSantis said Tuesday that the state is still working to protect its long-term care facilities. Florida now has 22 “COVID only facilities” throughout the state, where hospitals can safely discharge a coronavirus patient, according to the governor.
“We’ve had some facilities that have just dropped the ball. There’s no doubt that’s happened,” DeSantis said. But the governor stressed that most facilities “identified and isolated” positive cases of COVID-19 appropriately.