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COVID-19 Morning Report

A health care worker with Nomi Health puts on a protective face shield while working at a Miami-Dade County COVID-19 testing site, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Hialeah, Fla. Florida accounted for a fifth of the nation's new infections last week, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/AP
A health care worker with Nomi Health puts on a protective face shield while working at a Miami-Dade County COVID-19 testing site, Monday, July 26, 2021, in Hialeah, Fla. Florida accounted for a fifth of the nation's new infections last week, more than any other state, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Florida Tops the Nation in COVID-19 Infections, Deaths and Hospitalizations

Florida is worst in the nation when it comes to hospitalization rates of COVID-19 patients, including children. Florida also has the highest weekly total number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the country.

Data reported by Johns Hopkins University finds that Florida now accounts for 22% of new weekly total cases nationwide and 25% of weekly reported deaths from the virus. The Palm Beach Post reports, Florida's weekly new infection rate accounts for 733 cases per 100,000 people, which is 3.5 times the national average of 205 cases per 100,000 people.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports, Florida is currently the only state in the nation with a quarter or more of all inpatient hospital beds being used to treat coronavirus patients.

As public school students across much of Florida return to brick-and-mortar classrooms this week, some school districts are defying an order from Governor Ron DeSantis, barring districts from imposing mandatory mask mandates for students.

On Friday, a Leon County Circuit Court judge will hold a hearing in a lawsuit filed by parents challenging that executive order.

COVID-19 Hospitalizations Continue to Climb in SW Florida

In Southwest Florida, coronavirus hospitalization rates continue to climb as well. Lee Health reported, Thursday morning that 480 COVID-19 patients were being treated throughout the health system's hospital, which is up from 457 patients Wednesday and 455 patients on Tuesday, setting another new record high.

71 of those patients are in the intensive care unit, which is now at 93% capacity. Thirty-nine are on ventilators. Effective Thursday, Aug. 12, Lee Health is implementing new hospital visitation restrictions. The system's four acute care hospital campuses are limiting visitation to one visitor per patient, with certain exceptions, including for patients receiving end-of-life care.

Lee Health's Golisano Children's Hospital reports treating 14 pediatric patients, including four in the ICU. Golisano is now restricting visitation to two visitors per patient.

Sarasota Memorial Hospital also reported a new record high of 211 COVID-19 patients. The Herald Tribune reports, the previous record high number of hospitalized coronavirus patients at Sarasota Memorial was set in July of 2020, but that record was surpassed at the beginning of last week, and has been setting new record highs each consecutive day since.

89% of Sarasota Memorial's hospitalized coronavirus patients are unvaccinated.

The NCH healthcare system in Collier County reported having 166 COVID patients, Wednesday, which is down slightly from the previous day. Forty are in the ICU and 24 are on ventilators.

Physicians Regional Healthcare System reported treating 89 coronavirus patients Wednesday between its two hospitals. Manatee Memorial Hospital in Bradenton reported treating 68 COVID patients, Wednesday, and Lakewood Ranch Medical Center was treating 51.

Florida Pediatric COVID-19 Hospitalizations Climbing

The Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood is seeing a dramatic spike in children with COVID-19.

The hospital’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ronald Ford said when it comes to sending kids back-to-school, parents should make sure the information they get is accurate.

"The best thing you can do to protect your child is to keep them away from the virus. This virus is extremely infectious and it doesn't take much virus to infect and cause symptoms,” said Dr. Ford.

“Masking is really going to be one of the best defenses we have."

Pediatric Emergency Room Nurse Manager Anthony Sanders said children are coming in now that he otherwise wouldn't see until the new school year gets underway.

"When you throw COVID into the mix of that, we don't know what flu's going to look like, and the other childhood viruses and illnesses that they normally get is just a lot scarier this time."

In June, the hospital treated 20 kids with the virus. In July, that grew to more than 240 kids. Now, in the first part of August the hospital has already seen 160 pediatric patients sick with COVID-19 infections.

COVID-19 Surge Straining Emergency Medical Response Services

The strain of the COVID-19 patient surge is has hit medical resources to the point that ambulance services and fire departments in some parts of Florida are no longer able to respond to emergency calls as usual.

Ambulances in Pinellas County are waiting up to an hour with patients still inside until a hospital bed opens up for them; That's time the ambulances are unavailable to respond to other calls. More than 14,700 people in Florida were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Tuesday. More than 3,000 of those patients required intensive care.

Florida School Districts Are Responding Differently to State Pressure Against Mask Mandates

Two school districts that faced pressure from Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran about their attempts to require students to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic have given vastly different responses to the state.

Alachua County is moving forward with requiring students to have a doctors’ notes to avoid wearing masks, while Leon County backed away from a similar plan and will comply with the state’s demands.

Corcoran and Governor Ron DeSantis contend parents should be able to decide whether children wear masks, rather than school districts mandating it. Speaking to reporters while visiting a school Wednesday, DeSantis continued to say children remain at low risk to COVID-19.

“There are actually higher infection rates when you are just in the community versus when you are in the classroom, particularly for the younger kids. These kindergarteners and first-graders are not people that are really transmitting this in significant levels,” said DeSantis.

In a letter to the state, Alachua County cited a “twenty-fold” increase in local COVID-19 cases over the last six weeks and rising hospitalizations, even among children, in their decision to stay the course.

However, the Leon County School Board chose to allow parents to opt out of the district’s temporary mask requirement without giving a medical reason, marking a reversal from the district’s decision earlier in the week to require a doctor’s note.

Leon County School District Superintendent Rocky Hanna, who was visibly emotional while discussing the subject, said he ultimately wanted to provide safety for students.

“I want to just do what is right. I am not in it for the politics of it. I just want to protect our children and get them back in school,” said Hanna.

Along with Alachua, at least one other school district is moving forward with a mask policy at odds with the Department of Health’s rule. The Broward County School Board voted Tuesday to enact a mask requirement with an exception only for parents with doctors’ notes. The vote prompted Education Commissioner Corcoran to send a letter to district officials demanding a change by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13.

Sarasota Schools Bar Visitors: 143 People Out the First Day of School Due to COVID-19

The Sarasota County School District is temporarily barring visitors from school campuses and suspending any student field trips amid the current surge in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.

The Herald Tribune reports, Sarasota Schools Superintendent Brennan Asplen said Tuesday, that there would be no visitors to school campuses for the first 30 days of classes. District officials plan to revisit the policy during the second week of September.

Tuesday marked the first day of classes for students, district spokesman Craig Maniglia reports that early in the day there were 30 people out due to a coronavirus infection, but that by the end of the day, there were 143 people out of school due to COVID-19.

The district's Chief Operations Officer Jody Dumas says the sharp increase wasn't due to a backlog of cases being reported, as staff regularly updated the school district's COVID-19 dashboard throughout the summer.

Ag Commissioner Fried Calls on DeSantis to Clear Up COVID Data Confusion

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to clear up confusion on state coronavirus cases.

“If the Department of Health and the Governor were just doing their jobs and reporting these numbers in a timely consistent fashion daily, we would have consistency. We would have transparency. There wouldn’t be confusion on what numbers and what’s being calculated into those numbers,” said Fried.

The Florida Department of Health has raised concerns that daily case counts provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don’t accurately reflect the state’s new case numbers. Fried said the state should clear that up by releasing its own daily data.

Fried has been holding regular COVID-19 briefings for the past several weeks.

Patients with Severe COVID-19 More Likely to be Hospitalized in Future, UF Study Says

Those who end up in a hospital for COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized in the future for additional health problems related to a COVID-19 complication, researchers found.

Cases of COVID-19 are surging in Florida and so are hospitalizations as the Delta variant continues to spread.

Evidence shows that a vast majority of those who become severely ill from the virus have not been vaccinated.

Researchers at the University of Florida have found that those who end up in a hospital for COVID-19 are more than twice as likely to be hospitalized in the future for additional health problems related to a COVID-19 complication.

Health News Florida's William Marlow spoke with the study's lead researcher Arch G. Mainous III, about why COVID hospitalizations result in worse health outcomes for patients even after they recover.

What is the focus of the study?

The driving force behind this study was to look at the impact of COVID-19 downstream. One of the concerns that a lot of people have is that if you get COVID-19, what are the implications? Well, one implication is you could get really sick: you could die. Another implication that started coming out was that you could have some complications, some problems that came about from having COVID-19.

I think the main thing about the study is that we also looked at an outcome that other people hadn't looked at, and the findings are relatively troubling. And it shows that a pretty severe outcome can come from being affected with a severe episode of COVID-19.

What do you hope people learn from this study?

I hope that people learn a variety of things from this. The first is that we have a lot of data right now that's coming out that shows that the lag in vaccinations is leading to basically a rise in hospitalizations for COVID.

I think people are misinterpreting the impact of COVID-19 and believe that once the episode of COVID-19 is over, that's all there is. And I think that's really the key, which is that it's very difficult to minimize the downstream risk.

What are current trends in Florida regarding COVID-19 hospitalizations?

So Florida is a pretty good example of this. We're seeing here at University of Florida a rise in COVID hospitalizations and those numbers keep going up. They went way down, and now they're going back up. Some of this may be related to the Delta variant, but that actually comes back to the same general idea. People who are vaccinated, the data from the clinical trials shows that people who were vaccinated are at a very low risk of being hospitalized with COVID. So is the message to tell people to get vaccinated? I think absolutely.

How critical are vaccinations in reducing long-term health complications associated with COVID-19?

There's data that shows that nearly 100 percent, more than 99.5 percent of the people who are being hospitalized, were not vaccinated. The key to this study is that you can say, ‘I'm not going to get vaccinated, and I'll just take my chances.’ And that's a strategy that you can try. But if you get COVID, and you end up being an unfortunate person who ends up being hospitalized with a severe episode of COVID, it actually increases your likelihood of being hospitalized in the future for something else.

What this shows is that you're actually at increased risk if you do get sick and may have to be hospitalized in the next six months, you could be hospitalized with a stroke, you could be hospitalized with a heart attack, you could be hospitalized with a pulmonary embolism.

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