Tampa Bay Region Hospitals Filling Up With COVID-19 Patients
Hospitals in the greater Tampa Bay region are seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases, largely due to the fast-spreading delta variant.
Florida leads the nation in new COVID-19 infections, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting a seven-day average of more than 10,000 per day last week.
In the greater Tampa Bay region, cases recorded last week nearly doubled since a week before — and area hospitals are once again filling up with COVID-19 patients.
“A few weeks ago around the Fourth of July holiday, we had 12 to 14 new cases a day and now we’re seeing about 70 to 80 patients admitted to the hospital daily,” Dr. Peggy Duggan, chief medical officer at Tampa General Hospital, said in an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition on Monday.
AdventHealth, BayCare, and HCA West declined to give current hospitalization numbers, but said they are also experiencing an increase in coronavirus patients.
“AdventHealth has seen a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases at its facilities across West Florida in recent weeks,” an update on its website states.
“We have seen an increase in COVID hospitalizations in AdventHealth hospital locations in Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Marion, Pasco and Pinellas counties, but we still have fewer COVID patients compared to the peak in 2020.”
The Florida Department of Health ignored multiple requests for data on regional hospitalizations.
The CDC reported 6,491 confirmed COVID-19 patients were admitted to Florida hospitals from July 16 to 22. That’s an increase of nearly 2,400 hospitalizations compared to the week before.
The greater Tampa Bay region had 1,425 of those hospital admissions. Hillsborough hospitals had 461 admissions, Pinellas had 315, Polk had 309, Pasco had 147, Sarasota had 86, Manatee had 55 and Hernando had 52.
Public health officials say the increases are being largely driven by the highly contagious delta variant, lagging vaccination rates and summer gatherings.
“Primarily, our admitted patients now are unvaccinated,” Duggan told NPR. “Anywhere between 85 to 90 percent of our inpatients during this surge are unvaccinated. Potentially, this is an avoidable situation for them.”
As of July 23, 60 percent of Florida’s population over the age of 12 has received at least one dose of vaccine. In the Tampa Bay region, it ranges from a low of 49 percent in Hernando to a high of 68 percent in Sarasota.
Vaccination rates are highest among older adults. More than 84 percent of Floridians over the age of 65 have been vaccinated, and 75 percent of those ages 60 to 64 have been vaccinated.
However, a majority of Floridians under 40 are unvaccinated. Only 35 percent of people between 12 and 19 are vaccinated. The vaccination rate is slightly higher for people 20 to 29, at 39 percent; for those 30 to 39, it’s 47 percent.
“There are a couple of barriers. One is just information. A lot of people who have had COVID don’t think they need the vaccine, and they definitely do. And we’ve seen people who have had COVID come in with the delta variant very sick. Then the other is, ‘I’m too young, I don’t need it.’ But all of those people need to be vaccinated,” Duggan said.
“I’m hopeful that with further education and continued open conversation and dialogue, people will come to the conclusion that (the vaccine) is what’s best for their health.”
Health experts are strongly encouraging people to get vaccinated, and some have even called for reinstated mask mandates. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s strongly opposed to such mandates despite the jump in cases.