Increases in COVID-19 cases are starting to strain area hospitals
While the number of COVID-19 cases continues to skyrocket in Okaloosa County, the strain on area hospitals is reaching a critical stage.
A report sent out Saturday evening by county Public Safety Director Patrick Maddox stated that all but eight of the county’s 54 intensive care unit beds (85%) are presently occupied, and nine of those beds are being utilized by COVID-19 patients.
“Okaloosa ICU capacity is rated extremely low,” Okaloosa County Health Department Director Dr. Karen Chapman warned in a recent statement. “A large outbreak in a long-term care facility of COVID-19 could quickly strain our hospital ICU bed capacity.”
While the vast majority of patients occupying ICU beds are not COVID-19 patients, the number of those who are has increased dramatically in just the last 10 days.
On June 18, Maddox reported two of a total of five COVID-19 patients hospitalized countywide were being treated in ICU units.
By June 21, three of four hospitalized COVID-19 patients had been placed in ICU.
Four who had contracted the coronavirus were occupying ICU beds as of June 23 and by June 25 seven of eight hospitalized COVID-19 patients were receiving intensive care treatment.
By Saturday the number of COVID-19 patients in ICU had reached nine, and four others who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus have been admitted to area hospitals.
“Depending on the number of COVID-19 patients needing ICU beds, access to ICU beds for people with other serious illnesses could be compromised,” Chapman warned. “This situation is critical.”
At present, area hospitals maintain 104 open general population beds among the 453 available county wide.
County hospitals and the Health Department have surge plans in place to provide additional hospital bed capacity, but Chapman warned that only the hospitals can open additional ICU beds.
“ICU beds require specific trained staff and equipment,” she said in her report. “Protecting hospitals from the need for an ICU surge is incumbent on protecting the vulnerable elderly and other individuals who live with serious chronic medical conditions.”
Red flags have gone up within the health care community even as the number of Okaloosa County coronavirus cases increases daily by double digits.
The Florida Department of Health reported Sunday that 611 people have now tested positive for the coronavirus in Okaloosa County. The new total represents an increase of 38 from the day before.
On June 18, when Maddox reported five total hospitalizations and two in intensive care, the Health Department listed Okaloosa County as having 400 total cases.
By June 23, as the number in ICU care doubled, over all cases had risen to 436.
As of June 25, the county had reached the 500 mark for COVID-19 cases. It took just three days more for it to cross the 600 threshold.
“The pace of increase of new cases is not sustainable since we our outstripping our ability to conduct adequate case finding, isolating of new cases, meet testing demand and quarantine of close contacts,” Chapman warned in her report.