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Florida hospitals prepare for next COVID-19 spike as summer surge weakens

Facilities will remain on guard, says Florida Hospital Association president
Posted at 5:09 PM, Sep 28, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — After record COVID-19 hospitalizations pushed Florida health workers to new limits, the summer spike has continued to weaken.

The latest data from the Florida Hospital Association showed hospitalizations down about 25 percent in seven days to 6,138. That's a nearly 63 percent decrease from the August peak of more than 17,000.

The decline has the state on track to possibly return to pre-surge levels as soon as October. Time will tell if that happens.

Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew said facilities would remain on guard, however.

Mayhew believed the biggest lesson learned from the summer was that a spike could happen again.

Vaccinations, she said, remained "the best defense."

"The challenge that we've experienced over the last 18 months is the ongoing mutation of this virus," Mayhew said. "And one of the best ways to reduce the likelihood of a future mutation is to get more individuals vaccinated."

At the state level, Florida's governor has continued promoting monoclonal therapies as a way to ease the surge.

When given early after a COVID diagnosis, the antibody treatment boosts immune response and can reduce the chance of hospitalization by more than 70 percent.

Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew
Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew speaks about efforts to plan for another surge in COVID-19 cases.

DeSantis' 25 treatment sites have offered around 100,000 doses to date. But supply has become a hot topic after the White House capped distribution to ensure equity across the nation.

DeSantis recently said Floridians would suffer as a result.

"Biden loves talking about Florida," DeSantis told the capitol press corps last week. "He hates Florida more than anything.”

The White House has defended the change. In a statement, Health and Human Services said Florida was among several states controlling the majority of the nation's supply.

"The recent increase in the prevalence of the Delta variant coupled with low vaccination rates in certain areas of the country resulted in a substantial (20-fold) increase in the ordering and utilization of mAbs since mid-July," said the statement. "Just seven states accounted for about 70 percent of our monoclonal antibody ordering. Given this reality, we must work to ensure our supply of these life-saving therapies remains available for all states and territories, not just some."

DeSantis has vowed to fight the cap and recently secured about 3,000 monoclonal doses from GlaxoSmithKline, circumventing the federal government's allocation process.

The governor's critics believe the Republican is too focused on monoclonals.

"The governor is full of it," said Miami Cardiologist Dr. Bernard Ashby. "Essentially what he's doing is using PR to cover up his gross mismanagement of the pandemic."

Ashby and a group of like-minded physicians in the Committee to Protect Healthcare continue urging DeSantis to generate broad plans to fight COVID-19. Ashby said the antibodies are just one tool in the toolbox.

"Monoclonal antibody therapy was something that I, and other colleagues, were advocating for when this virus was accelerating," said Ashby. "But it's one piece of a comprehensive strategy, which he has not done at all. He has taken a very much -- a hands-off approach."

DeSantis has vehemently defended his record on the virus. He's often touted the prioritization of senior vaccinations and the protection of individual choice.

Facing re-election next year, DeSantis has even urged opponents to challenge him on COVID-19, saying he's confident in his actions over the last two years.