The biggest issue AdventHealth will face in the near future is staffing, a CEO said.
AdventHealth is keeping a close eye on the growing number of coronavirus cases in the state, and while that has also increased hospitalizations, capacity levels are still within a "manageable range" in its central Florida hospitals.
Daryl Tol, president and CEO of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division, said during a COVID-19 briefing on Thursday, July 9, that their hospitals are at about 84% total bed capacity across the seven counties in the division (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Polk, Lake, Volusia and Flagler County). That means there are 16% of total beds available, though Tol said the percentage of available intensive care unit beds is slightly higher at 20%. The capacity level is normal, but Tol explained that AdventHealth is operating in a readiness position, expecting a continued surge and capacity challenges.
The good news is the supply of personal protective equipment and ventilators looks great, Tol added. The biggest issue AdventHealth will face is staffing, and Tol said they are working on hiring more permanent and temporary staff, as well as bringing staff from other areas less impacted by the virus.
Florida reported 8,948 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, July 9. Of those, Volusia County reported 164 new cases and a 17.3% positivity rate, and Flagler County reported nine new cases and a 8.7% positivity rate. Though the state median age of COVID-19 cases in 38, Tol said that is still cause for concern.
“We are caring for people in hospital beds right now who are very young and who are very sick," Tol said. We don’t want anyone to get this. It has real risk factors associated with it even for younger people.”
If needed due to a surge, Tol said AdventHealth could start curtailing some elective surgeries to redirect staff and bed capacity for COVID-19 patients.
Dr. Scott Brady, internal medicine physician and president of AdventHealth Centra Care, said the rapidly increasing number of cases is not a result of increased testing; it's a result of reopening the community as people stop practicing social distancing and choose not to wear masks in public.
“This virus doesn’t care that we’re tired of it," Brady said. "It needs to run its course and we need to do the things we know to prevent it.”
The public should focus on the positivity rate when looking at COVID-19 data, the doctor added. The state reported a 20.72% positivity rate for all testing, and an 18.39% positivity rate for new cases on July 8.
Brady said pandemics typically take a year or longer to go through an entire population to the point where enough people have been infected or received a vaccine so the transmission rate decreases to less than one.
Both Tol and Brady encouraged the public to continue practicing social distancing and wearing masks. Some of the arguments against these preventions "don't matter to the virus," Tol said.
“It’s not a press conference, it’s not a government policy, it doesn’t respond to our personal philosophies," Tol said. "It’s growing because we get out there, we’re not as careful as we should be, we don’t wear masks, we gather in crowds, and the thing is [COVID-19] just hops around when you’re too close to each other.”