COVID-19 hospitalizations increase by 25 percent

A transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as the 2019 novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the United States. Note the crown-like spikes on the outer edge of the virus, hence the term "coron (NIAID-RML)

Florida hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have increased by 25 percent over the last two weeks and more than 35 percent in the last 30 days, according to a top Florida health care regulator.

Self-reported data from hospitals published by the state shows 3,034 patients hospitalized with a primary diagnosis of COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

On a phone call with hospital providers Tuesday, Agency for Health Care Administration interim Secretary Shevaun L. Harris said that the number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 had increased by more than 25 percent over the last two weeks and 35 percent over the last 30 days. The increase in hospitalizations comes as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state continue to climb, despite Gov. Ron DeSantis’ push for a return to normalcy.

As of Tuesday, the Florida Department of Health reported 852,174 COVID-19 cases in Florida, an increase of 4,353 cases from a Monday count. The health department data also show that nearly 4 percent of the state’s nursing home residents have tested positive for the virus as of Tuesday.

The rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations was predictable, according to Manuel Gordillo, medical director of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System’s Infection Prevention and Control department. The spike in COVID-19 cases in Florida and nationwide can be attributed to pandemic fatigue, mixed messages from television and social media, and “wrong messaging coming from the top,” Gordillo said. “And then, all these other factors --- the seasonality, the fact that people now are more indoors --- all these are something that the virus loves,” he said Monday in a video posted on YouTube by Sarasota Memorial Health Care System.

On Monday, drug manufacturer Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate had a more than 90-percent efficacy rate seven days after the second dose of the vaccine was administered. The companies are accumulating the required safety data and will apply for emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later this month after safety milestones are reached, the announcement said.

Meanwhile, Gordillo, said the best tools currently available to Florida and the nation are non-pharmaceutical: social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand washing. President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced the creation of a coronavirus task force comprised of scientists and physicians that will help guide his policies.