COVID-19 cases have filled Florida hospital beds that ambulance services and fire departments are straining to respond.
In St. Petersburg, patients wait inside ambulances for up to an hour before hospitals can admit them. Hospitalizations rose by more than 1,100, as more than 47% of ICU beds were taken by about 3,000 coronavirus patients.
At no other time during the pandemic have intensive care units seen a percentage of COVID patients as high as in the last two days. Heart attacks and strokes, still get prompt attention in emergency rooms, and the county is working with fire rescue officials to find more ambulances and extra staff.
The surge brought on by the spread of the delta variant of COVID-19 is mostly among the unvaccinated, and it comes as children across Florida are heading back to school.
Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated his opposition to restrictions, such as lockdowns, business closures and mask mandates.
“In terms of imposing any restrictions. That’s not happening in Florida. It’s harmful, it’s destructive. It does not work,” he said, noting that Los Angeles County had a winter surge despite all its restrictions. “We really believe that individuals know how to best assess their risks. We trust them to be able to make those decisions. We just want to make sure everybody has information.”
Miami-Dade will begin weekly COVID-19 testing of county employees after the spike in hospitalizations and cases, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.
All non-union employees will be tested on a weekly basis and employees who are vaccinated can opt out if they provide proof of their vaccination status. "Exceptions will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis," Levine Cava said.
"Our community and the state are continuing to combat a grave and worsening Covid spike," Levine Cava said.
The spike is being driven primarily by people who are unvaccinated as well as the delta variant, and around 17% of the county's employees responded to a recent survey about whether they were vaccinated, with 83% of those saying they were.