Social distance is important. Here’s how to do it and how it can help stop the COVID-19 pandemic.
In order to provide our community with important public safety information, our newsroom makes articles related to the coronavirus free to read. To support important local journalism like this, please consider becoming a digital subscriber.
There may still be time to avoid a COVID-19 disaster in Florida, suggests a model, as long as the Space Coast and the other Floridians do all the right things like preparing hospitals and making sure people are at a social distance – at least six feet – and stay at home.
According to a University of Washington model, the number of cases and deaths that researchers and experts expect to hit the country in the coming weeks is slightly more advanced in April.
The model predicts that Florida hospitals should have a few weeks longer than most other states to store medical supplies before the expected peak in load hits the state in early May.
FLORIDA TODAY’s Rob Landers brings you some of today’s best News stories in 90 seconds.
Although it sounds good, epidemiologists warn that if Florida hospitals don’t take advantage of this extra time and the public doesn’t keep their distance, terrible fate will be cast for Brevard and the rest of Florida, increasing the chances of aggravate the human toll in the Sunshine State.
Complacency and failure, say epidemiologists, are not an option for the county that went to the moon.
“We still have to be very careful,” said Asal Mohamadi Johnson, assistant professor of public health at Stetson University.
“It’s not going to leave us, and it’s going to be with us for a while,” she added. “It could actually get worse. We will experience several waves. “
Local doctors urge us to stay the course.
“If everyone stays patient with social distancing, the numbers based on each model will get worse … over the next four weeks,” said Dr. Tim Laird, medical director of Health First.“This does not mean that social distance does not work. “
Nor is that a reason to give up on the concept, said Laird.
So even if Floridians might get discouraged as the number of cases inevitably worsens, these numbers would be much worse without social distancing.
Johnson is concerned that the Florida public will drop his guard too soon after they realize that COVID-19 cases have peaked.
The recent The University of Washington model showed that demand for health care resources in Florida peaked on May 3, two weeks later than the April 15 peak demand it forecasts for the nation as a whole. . This buys Florida more time to prepare than most of the rest of America.
Even though the state does not yet see a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, Florida hospitals must do everything they can to save masks, gowns, gloves and other personal protective equipment, including stopping elective surgeries, which Governor Ron DeSantis ordered postponed until the crisis ended.
According to the UW model, Florida will need 16,963 hospital beds by May 3. There are 20,184 available, so the model does not anticipate a shortage of beds. But he also predicts that the state will need 2,555 beds in intensive care units by then, 860 beds less than demand.
Florida will also need 2,044 fans by May 3, the model says, but does not say there will be enough.
Brevard hospitals said they could handle the surge in demand for ventilators.
Health First, the largest medical system in Brevard County recently told officials that four county hospitals were ready. Health First has “469 positive pressure devices, which include single-use resuscitation devices and more than 200 ventilators that can be used if necessary for patients with respiratory disease,” wrote CEO Steve Johnson in an update. COVID-19 of April 1.
Health First has ordered an additional 2,000 devices and is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks, said Johnson.
“In addition, we have converted 66 ordinary hospital rooms into dedicated negative pressure rooms, which can be used to treat people with respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19,” he said. “These additional resources allow Health First to have more than 200 specialized beds to serve our community during this crisis. “
According to the State Agency for Healthcare Administration, Brevard has only a total capacity of 154 adult intensive care beds. As of April 2, 99 of these beds had been taken and 55 available: 20 at Holmes Regional; nine at Cape Canaveral Hospital; five at the Parrish Medical Center; and only two at Rockledge Regional Medical Center.
The AHCA recently released these figures to a running dashboard of Florida hospital bed availability.
“Currently they have capacity,” said Maria Stahl of the availability of hospital beds in a live Facebook update on Monday with representative Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. “They have alternative plans for surges. If we ever get to New York (case levels), I’m sure we will have problems, but we are currently doing emergency planning with emergency management and all the hospitals. “
To reduce unnecessary hospital visits, Health First promotes “virtual visits”, which allow patients to talk to their doctor over the phone or via video chat.
“I am confident that we are well positioned to meet this need,” said Laird of Health First.
A sheriff’s assistant patrols the beach at Cape Canaveral on Saturday afternoon. The county has chosen not to close its beaches between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., as several municipalities have done because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY)
The Florida Department of Health has the legal authority to enforce mandatory quarantine, said Stahl. “In Brevard County, we didn’t have to do it,” she said. “The citizens have been wonderful, but we have this authority. “
In addition to hospital readiness, the other key to keeping demand for these scary resources as low as possible is to keep people at home as much as possible. Experts now estimate that the number of people infected with the virus who have no symptoms is higher than they thought at the start and the fewer people have contact outside their home, the less the risk of disease propagate.
But it is unclear whether enough citizens have followed expert advice to avoid traveling or interacting closely with other people. Over the weekend, a video posted to YouTube showed crowds of weekend boaters on some loot islands, partying on the sandbanks, which county officials then closed for the weekend .
Deborah Skinner, meida specialist at Tropical Elementary, gives Quinn Fleming a social distance birthday hug. The 12-year-old girl from Merritt organized a birthday party by car. Friends, classmates and several tropical elementary school teachers stopped with signs and waves in front of Quinn’s house. (Photo: TIM SHORTT / FLORIDE TODAY)
Mobile phone location data show that a large number of Brevardians are certainly not staying there.
According to an analysis of the location data of mobile phones by New York times, places like Seattle have managed to distance themselves socially, with people moving, on average, just 61 feet from their homes. At Brevard, however, which spans 72 miles, Friday’s figure was 2.4 miles. Who classified the Space Coastthe 13th worstin the nation to stay put, based on the average distance traveled in counties with more than 500,000 inhabitants.
Staying away will help everyone stay healthy during the pandemic, says Stahl.
The sign outside Fiesta Azteca in Suntree has a new meaning in the era of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Craig Bailey / FLORIDA TODAY)
But how much of the underlying risk of COVID-19 is already embedded in Brevard’s socio-economic and health indicator pie?
The Centers for Disease Control lists high-risk groups as people 65 and older; those who live in nursing homes; people with lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, diabetes and compromised immunity.
Taking the pulse of these underlying conditions in Brevard, one by one, shows a county ready for a deluge of potential COVID-19 complications, suggest data from the Florida Department of Health.
Elderly residents with special needs
Take the oldest of us. A major challenge for Brevard – such as hurricanes, forest fires and other natural disasters – is the thousands of elderly and / or residents designated as “special needs”.
Of the 101 deaths attributed to COVID-19 in Florida so far (as of April 2), 39 of the deaths were aged 80 or older and 69 deaths were aged 70 or older (68%).
Brevard has 21 nursing homes, 127 assisted living centers and 2,400 “special needs” residents – although that number changes daily – said Kimberly Prosser, director of emergency management at Brevard.
They basically include anyone who needs help during evacuations and shelters because of “physical, mental, cognitive or sensory impairments”, according to state law.
Brevard is older than the rest of Florida, with over 144,000 (24%) 65 years or older, compared to 20.5% in this group statewide.
Although those under 50 are much less likely to succumb to COVID-19, being younger did not spare the suffering of the disease. The median age of cases in Florida is 50, but the cases also regroup in the 1920s and 1930s.Although no information is available as to whether they had underlying health conditions, five of the deaths in Florida were people under the age of 50, the youngest a Sarasota man aged 28.
In terms of health insurance, Brevard is doing a little better, with almost 91% insured, compared to 87% nationwide, according to the state health department.
The air quality here is good, show the air monitors, the sea breezes helping to send pollution elsewhere, the sparse industry and the scourge of the virus limiting travel and therefore pollution of exhaust pipes . But dry conditions threaten the start of an above-normal fire season, state forest officials say, with flames that could throw fine particles that lodge deep in the lungs, which could increase the risk of COVID-19 complications in people with moderate to severe asthma and other lung conditions.
Poor air pollution and older men who smoke have worsened the results in China, according to studies.
Smoking, lung disease and asthma
Lifetime smokers should take the coronvirus seriously, warn health experts. In Brevard, 18.3% of adults smoke, compared to 15.5% nationwide, according to state health data.
Vaping and electronic cigarettes evidence also shows that young people are at higher risk of worsening COVID-19 symptoms. The CDC estimates that more than 3 million students – 1 in 5 – are vaping nationwide.
School officials have called vaping an epidemic in Brevard County schools.
Another higher risk for Brevard: nearly 10% of adults suffer from asthma, compared to 6.7% nationwide, according to data from the state health department.
Brevard is also a few percentage points higher for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): 9.2%, down from 7.1% statewide (2016).
The CDC says that immunocompromised people are also at higher risk for COVID-19. This includes people who are undergoing cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplants, or who have poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, or who have prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune-weakening drugs .
Brevard recorded 68 cases of HIV in 2018 and on average about 60 cases per year, according to state health data.
For certain types of cancer, state health department statistics show that Brevard had higher age-adjusted cancer rates than the rest of Florida 12 over 12 years for kidney cancer and lung cancer; 11 out of 12 years for bladder, skin, mouth and brain cancer and other cancers of the central nervous system; 8 of 12 years old for leukemia; 7 12-year-olds for breast cancer, according to a FLORIDA analysis TODAY of cancer status data.
But Florida health officials downplay these statistics, noting that cancer can occur simultaneously due to many risk factors, including age, gender, race, smoking and other factors related to life.
The death rate from influenza and pneumonia in Florida has increased over the past 20 years, but still tends to be slightly worse than the statewide rate. (Photo: Florida Department of Health)
Another coronavirus joker for Brevard and Florida: hurricanes. Forecasters expect an above average hurricane this year.
“What if it goes on until the fall,” wonders Johnson of Stetson University, “and before we get to it, we have to deal with hurricane issues. It will overwhelm our public health system. “
Meanwhile, while the Brevardians are trying to stay away from each other, New Yorkers and the like just can’t seem to stay away from Florida, fueling the contagion of their home states to come here. At least four of the 51 Brevard cases (as of April 3) are from New York, and several others have been there.
“There is a close relationship between Florida and New York, and this is a great warning sign,” said Johnson. “It is incredibly difficult to follow this movement. “
Stahl is hoping for as little movement as possible.
“We have to stay separate,” said Stahl. “We have to stay at home as much as possible. “
What is COVID-19?
COVID-19 stands for coronavirus disease 2019, caused by a virus called SARS-CoV-2. SARS is short for severe acute respiratory syndrome. The disease was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.
Worldwide, the number of cases is approaching one million, with more than 50,000 deaths (as of April 2).
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and breathing problems. Most people suffer from mild symptoms. But some, usually those with other underlying medical complications, develop more serious symptoms, such as pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Experts warn that since so many people seem asymptomatic and therefore are not included in the number of infections, the death rate is probably lower than that reported. But much remains unknown.
Our journalists are working hard to report on the coronavirus and its effects on the space coast, and bring the stories to you for free as a service to the community. If these local stories are important to you, support us by becoming a subscriber. Right now, you can try a digital subscription at $ 3 for 3 months.
Jim Waymer is an environmental reporter at FLORIDA TODAY.
Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663
or [email protected]
Support local journalism: if you want to read more government and political news and are not subscribed, please consider subscribing. For more details, visit offers.floridatoday.com.
Read or share this story: https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/2020/04/03/coronavirus-florida-peak-expected-early-may-hospitals-should-prepare-now/5086424002/