Some Florida Hospitals Limiting Visitors Amid State's COVID Hospitalization Record

Some Florida hospitals are limiting visitors as the state sets the COVID-19 hospitalization record of 10,389, the Associated Press reported.

AdventHealth is one to limit visitors for COVID-19 patients. Most coronavirus patients are not allowed visitors unless they are children, new mothers or they are dying. It said the visitation ban is being implemented due to nurses having to take time away from caring for patients to help visitors into protective gear.

The state broke its record Monday with almost 200 more hospitalizations than it did Sunday. The previous record on 10,170 was set July 23, 2020, months before the vaccines started becoming widespread. Over 39,000 Floridians have died since March 2020 of COVID-19, including more than 400 just last week.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Florida COVID Patients Receive No Visitors
Some Florida hospitals have banned COVID-19 patients from having visitors unless they are special circumstances. In this handout released by the U.S. Navy, Lt. Wade Miller, from Orlando, Fla., treats a patient aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), April 4, 2020. Ryan M. Breeden/US Navy/Getty Images

Hospitalizations have grown tenfold statewide in just over a month as the more contagious delta variant spreads, with more than 95% of COVID-19 patients unvaccinated, officials said.

"It's an overwhelming demand in the hospitals right now," said Mary Mayhew, president of the Florida Hospital Association. "Now we're dealing with a relatively new variant mutation. The dramatic increase is so different than last summer" when the previous records were set.

Federal health data released Saturday showed that Florida reported 21,683 new cases of the virus, the state's highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic. Those numbers were recorded Friday and released Saturday on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says the surge is seasonal, caused by people gathering inside to avoid the summer heat and humidity. He has barred local governments and school districts from imposing mandatory mask mandates and vaccine requirements.

But throughout the state, hospitals are again seeing their COVID-19 wards filling after nearly emptying in June.

Baptist Health in Miami has opened several new COVID-19 units at its hospitals to house its more than 220 infected patients, a 140 percent increase in two weeks, and is preparing to open another unit this week. Dr. Sergio Segarra, its medical director, said it was "a big mistake" for the state to drop mask mandates.

"We said the vaccinated could stop wearing their masks — and the unvaccinated stopped wearing their masks, too." Segarra said. "People have been more lax and now is the time not to be lax."

Segarra fears there won't be enough nurses, respiratory therapists and other workers to staff the new units — a concern other hospital officials have also voiced.

Ed Jimenez, CEO of the University of Florida Health Shands in Gainesville, said coronavirus patients are some of the most labor intensive, leaving doctors, nurses and others exhausted when their numbers increase. His emergency room staff is again wearing N-95 masks at all times and that protocol will likely soon expand to other departments. His hospital now has 146 patients with the virus, up from 14 a month ago and just short of its all-time high of 157 in January.

Jimenez urged the unvaccinated to get their shots to help medical workers and to prevent the state's smaller hospitals from being overrun. He fears smaller institutions will soon be forced to send patients with broken bones and less serious illnesses to major regional hospitals, like his that are 50 or more miles away. Many of the small, rural counties outside Gainesville have vaccine rates of less than 40% and many are seeing some of the worst outbreaks on a per capita basis.

"If you live in that community and you need to go to the hospital, what is going to happen?" he said.

The chain said it had 1,060 COVID-19 patients on Friday, the most recent numbers it's reporting. That surpassed the previous peak of 908 patients last January. As recently as June 9, the number of COVID-19 patients had dipped to 126.

The Jacksonville area is getting hit particularly hard. Many counties in that area have vaccinations rates of below 40%, according to the state.

At the two University of Florida Shands hospitals in Jacksonville, 218 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Monday, with 56 of those in intensive care. In less than two months, that is a 1,500% increase in overall patients and a 1,100 percent increase in ICU patients. It also is well above the January pre-vaccination peak when 125 COVID patients were hospitalized and 29 were in ICU.

Tallahassee Memorial said it now has 70 COVID patients, up from a daily average of five in June. Dr. Dean Watson, the hospital's chief integration officer, said that when the staff saw local vaccination rates were less than 50 percent a few weeks ago, "we knew we were in trouble."

"This delta variant is no joke," Watson said.

Florida COVID Patients Banned From Visitors
Florida broke its record Monday with 10,389 COVID-19 hospitalizations. Its previous record was set July 23, 2020, with 10,170. A healthcare worker administers a coronavirus test to a patient at the Lee Davis Community Resource Center on June 25, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. Octavio Jones/Getty Images