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Can Bay County ICU beds accommodate Florida’s ongoing COVID spike?

Published: Jun. 24, 2020 at 5:56 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) - As COVID-19 cases spike, so do concerns.

“We’re having a whole lot of difficulty with enforcement. We have a large amount of people that are here that are driving in from our driving destinations and Alabama and Georgia. Our police department is overwhelmed, we’re using some mutual aid,” said Panama City Beach vice-mayor, Geoff McConnell.

Now cities and counties across the country like Leon County have mandated wearing face masks in public indoor spaces. ”Two people in our community reached out to me and asked for mandatory masks to be implemented. Now those are two very intelligent people that I very much respect. However, it’s only two out of a population of 15,000,” said McConnell.

This comes as reports claim a shortage of ICU beds at some Florida hospitals.

McConnell said, ”we’re starting to see the percent positives start to skyrocket a little bit. So I think what we’re going to do- you’re going to see us do tomorrow- is probably pump the breaks a little bit on some of the public gathering that we were looking at and some of the policies that we were looking to maybe roll back a little bit.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, only 8 of Bay County’s 62 adult ICU beds were available, that’s according to the Agency for Health Care Administration.

“Well I think some of the data is a little flawed. While the hospital’s ICU beds might seem they’re at capacity, I think both hospitals have the ability to surge if we need them,” said Bay County Commissioner Philip “Griff” Griffitts. He said he’s in regular communication with local hospitals which are not reporting any needs at this time-”they have COVID beds that are available, they’re just not in use right now so there’s no reason to staff them fully so they’re not advertised as ICU beds.”

Both Griffitts and McConnell don’t anticipate the need to mandate mask usage, but say all options are still on the table.

Both Gulf Coast and Bay Medical hospitals denied our requests to speak on camera. However, we did receive the following statement from Gulf Coast:

“Bed capacity is a fluctuating figure depending on the care needed by our patients on any given day. However, that is why our hospital has been preparing for months to respond to impacts of COVID-19. We put measures in place to safely and effectively care for patients experiencing both COVID and non-COVID health concerns, and our hospital implemented enhanced safety precautions to protect our patients, colleagues and visitors receiving care within our hospital and our emergency department. While we have the bed capacity, staffing, supplies and equipment we need at this time, we continue to plan by accessing the resources, support and best practices across HCA Healthcare. This helps ensure we remain able to meet the needs of the communities we serve as the situation continues to evolve, including accessing additional ventilators or adding bed capacity to certain areas of our hospital if the need arises.”

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