Florida Has Over 12,000 Hospitalized With COVID, 2,500 of Them in ICUs

More than 12,000 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 across Florida on Wednesday, with about 2,500 of the inpatients being placed in intensive care unit beds, the Associated Press reported.

Nearly 18,000 new cases on average are being reported each day in the state, marking a stark increase from the average of less than 2,000 recorded in the first week of July. Florida's total COVID-19 death count since the onset of the pandemic surpassed 39,100.

Despite the influx of cases, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has resisted imposing mask mandates and other health and safety regulations in the state to curtail the spread.

"Florida is a free state, and we will empower our people. We will not allow Joe Biden and his bureaucratic flunkies to come in and commandeer the rights and freedoms of Floridians," DeSantis said in a fundraising email on Wednesday

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Miami Beach Vaccination Site
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 50,000 new coronavirus cases in Florida over the previous three days, pushing the seven-day average to one of the highest counts since the pandemic began. Above, Francesca Anacleto, 12, receives her first Pfizer vaccine shot from nurse Jorge Tase on Wednesday in Miami.

Florida hospitals slammed with COVID-19 patients are suspending elective surgeries and putting beds in conference rooms, an auditorium and a cafeteria. In Georgia, medical centers are turning people away for lack of space. And a Louisiana hospital had to postpone an organ transplant.

"We are seeing a surge like we've not seen before in terms of the patients coming," Dr. Marc Napp, chief medical officer for Memorial Healthcare System in Hollywood, Florida, said Wednesday. "It's the sheer number coming in at the same time. There are only so many beds, so many doctors, only so many nurses."

Coronavirus hospitalizations are surging again as the more contagious Delta variant rages across the country, forcing medical centers to return to a crisis footing just weeks after many closed their COVID-19 wards and field hospitals and dropped other emergency measures.

The number of people now in the hospital in the U.S. with the virus has more than tripled over the past month, from an average of roughly 12,000 to almost 43,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That is still nowhere close to the nearly 124,000 in hospitals at the very peak of the winter surge in January. But health experts say this wave is perhaps more worrying because it has risen more swiftly than prior ones. Also, a disturbingly large share of patients this time are young adults.

And to the frustration of public health experts and front-line medical workers, the vast majority of those now hospitalized are unvaccinated.

The reversal in fortune at some hospitals has been stark.

In central Florida, AdventHealth hospitals had 1,350 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday, the most ever. The health care system has postponed non-emergency surgery and limited visitors to concentrate on treating coronavirus patients.

Less than two months ago, Miami's Baptist Hospital had fewer than 20 COVID-19 patients and was closing down coronavirus units. By Monday, hospital officials were reopening some of those units to handle an influx of more than 200 new virus patients.

"As fast as we are opening up units, they're being filled with COVID patients," said Dr. Sergio Segarra, the hospital's chief medical officer.

In Georgia, more than two dozen hospitals said this week that they have had to turn away patients as the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 has risen to 2,600 statewide.

And in Louisiana, a transplant was among the procedures recently postponed because of the coronavirus resurgence, according to the state's largest hospital system. The state had roughly 2,350 COVID-19 patients in hospitals as of Thursday.

Dr. Robert Hart, chief medical officer at Ochsner Health, would not disclose the type of transplant but said it involved a live donor. "You can imagine the expectations both the recipient and the donor had leading up to the surgery, and then to have to put that off," he said.

The swift turn of events has been disheartening for health care workers who just weeks ago thought the battle was in its final stages. The crisis is also making it harder for hospitals to provide other crucial types of medical care.

"If you don't get vaccinated, you are taking resources from people who have diseases or injuries or illnesses," said Dr. Vincent Shaw, a family physician in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. "COVID doesn't call people who have had strokes, who have had heart attacks, who have had other horrific or traumatic things happen and say, 'Y'all take the week off. I am going to take over the ER and the ICU.'"

In Florida, Judi Custer said she and her husband did everything they were told to do to ward off the virus. The Fort Lauderdale retirees got vaccinated and wore masks, even when the rules were lifted. Still, they fell ill with COVID-19 a few weeks ago, and 80-year-old Doug Custer was hospitalized for five days.

Judy Custer said she still believes more people need to get vaccinated.

"We've had it long enough to know it is helping people, even if they get sick with it," she said. "You're less likely to be put on a ventilator. You're less likely to be hospitalized."

Correction, (08/05/21, 4:30 ET): This story and its headline have been rewritten to reflect the overall COVID-19 hospitalization numbers in Florida. A previous version of this story reported that Memorial Healthcare System admitted over 1,600 patients in one night. However, the hospital system has 1,600 patients currently admitted.

Florida COVID Testing Site
Cars line up for coronavirus testing amid record hospitalizations in Florida. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images