FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis discussed the winter wave of the coronavirus for the first time at a media conference in South Florida.
Speaking at Broward Health Medical Center, Monday morning, DeSantis addressed the state’s efforts to fight the pandemic. He said he has secured more than 40,000 monoclonal antibody treatments from the federal government.
“We’re past the point now where we’re able to get it directly from any of these companies. The federal government has cornered the entire market,” he said.
The governor said increasing the state’s monoclonal antibody supply will allow more treatment sites to open immediately across the state.
“We will do an additional site here in Broward County. We’ll do an additional site in Miami-Dade. We’ll do an additional site in Palm Beach County,” he said.
After the New Year’s holiday weekend, local COVID-19 testing sites are swamped with people once again, as the omicron outbreak continues to hit the region.
“You don’t really have a slope, you have like a straight line going up in terms of how quickly it spreads,” DeSantis said.
While symptoms appear to be more mild, cases are soaring. More than 85,000 new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Florida in the past 48 hours.
“Miami-Dade, for example, is one of the most vaccinated places in the country if not the world, and they’ve had huge, huge omicron infection,” said DeSantis.
Across Miami-Dade and Broward counties, massive lines continue to form at testing sites.
7News cameras captured bumper-to-bumper traffic at Zoo Miami in Southwest Miami-Dade.
7SkyForce also hovered over a busy day of testing at C.B. Smith Park.
Broward County officials said they will be opening additional testing sites throughout the first week of January.
Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo said people should move away from “low-value testing.”
“Dr. Ladapo is working on providing some testing guidance about who should be testing,” said DeSantis. “I mean, you want to test in order to get a clinical outcome.”
“High-value testing is testing that is likely to change outcomes, right? So if your grandmother gets a test, that’s a much more valuable test than the 8-year-old third graders that Los Angeles County is sending in to get weekly testing,” said Ladapo.
FIU infectious disease specialist Dr. Aileen Marty reacted to his guidance.
“Some percentage of those individuals will get severely ill. Number two: they’ll continue to spread it to individuals who are more sensitive to severe disease and number three: you’ll have more possibility of forming another worse variant,” she said.
At Holy Cross Health in Fort Lauderdale, its labor and delivery wing has been shut down due to a surge in COVID-19 cases among its staff.
Hospital spokesperson Christine Walker on Sunday afternoon released a statement that reads in part, “Due to the COVID-19 surge, Holy Cross Health has reached critical staffing levels in Labor and Delivery. In the best interest of patient safety, the Labor and Delivery Unit is on diversion until further notice.”
However, Walker said, the hospital’s neonatal intensive care and post-partum units will remain open.
Expecting mothers will head to Memorial Healthcare locations to deliver their babies.
“They needed help. Their staff are out sick. All of us are suffering with that,” said Leah Carpenter, vice president and chief operating officer of Memorial Healthcare System, “and [Holy Cross’] labor and delivery [division], they needed our assistance. They called, and we came out to help.”
The staff at Holy Cross is not alone. Miami-Dade Corrections reported 139 officers out with COVID, the Miami-Dade Police Department is down 246 sworn personnel, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is missing 132 firefighters due to the virus.
North of the county line, Broward Health officials said 3% of their entire workforce is out, and the Broward Sheriff’s Office said their agency is experiencing a rise in coronavirus cases as well.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reported 103,329 COVID-related hospitalizations nationwide. Nearly 6,000 are in Florida, and of those hospitalizations, 614 are in intensive care units. That last figure is significantly lower than the 3,700 ICU hospitalizations reported in the Sunshine State in late August.
In terms of South Florida hospitals, officials reported 1,652 hospitalizations in Miami-Dade and 1,014 in Broward.
DeSantis said some patients with COVID are in the hospital being treated for something else.
“Who is being admitted for COVID versus who may be admitted with COVID is going to be important to really chart the severity of what we’re seeing,” he said. “You’re going to have people get into a car accident, go into the emergency room, and they’re swabbing everybody, and you’re going to have people who have incidental positives.”
DeSantis said he will immediately activate monoclonal antibody treatment sites as soon as the federal government releases the doses.
“It’s all locked and loaded. It’s just a matter of the federal government giving us more doses to be able to administer for the Floridians who need it,” he said.
DeSantis said he will ask the federal government for 30,000 to 40,000 monoclonal antibody treatment doses a week. He said the state has set aside more than $800 million to deal with future antibody treatments.
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