Despite little hospital occupancy, health officials say no need to worry

Even though Florida hospitals are reporting a high number of filled beds, administrators and public health officials say there's no need to panic.

The numbers look alarming as new COVID-19 cases spike in Central Florida.

Across hospitals in Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Marion, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Sumter and Volusia Counties, only 24 percent of beds are open, overall, and 28 percent are free in the intensive care units.

According to Orlando Health's Chief Medical Officer Dr. George Ralls, that is normal.

“We're seeing the volumes come back to where we typically see them. It's not COVID patients creating any kind of capacity constraints. We're seeing heart disease, lung disease. All of these things we're typically used to seeing,” he said.
Dr. Jason Littleton, an Orlando physician, said hospitals see numbers like is all the time.

“This might just be what the new normal is, in regards to the numbers, as we wait and see how everything balances out,” he said.
Public health officials said it is because a lot of people are back in the hospitals getting elective procedures that they put off during the shutdown.

“The hospital systems are doing elective surgeries and treating COVID patients at the exact same time. So because of that the percentage is going to be down a little bit,” said Alan Harris, Seminole County’s emergency manager.
Dr. Ralls said, in fact, during the height of the shutdown, Orlando Health had a lot of empty beds because people were just staying away.

“We had a lot of capacity available,” he said. “There were times when our hospital was half empty.”
Hospital officials said their facilities are now open and ready for all patients.

If necessary, Ralls said Orlando Health could ramp back up to respond to any crisis at a moment's notice.

“We've got a lot of things in place right now that are literally just a decision away,” he said.