South Florida hospitals report rise in patients, restaurant closures loom as local COVID-19 cases top 74K

MIAMI (WSVN) - As cases of COVID-19 continue to increase across Florida, local hospitals and restaurants are feeling the effects of the statewide surge.

Of the 213,794 cases reported by health officials in the Sunshine State, 74,051 are in South Florida. Out of those cases, 51,058 are in Miami-Dade County.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis addressed the uptick during a news conference held in Miami Tuesday.

“We’re seeing positivity in Miami-Dade. Some of the other places maybe not as high, but higher than they would be,” he said.

Hospitals are once again feeling the pressure. Jackson Health and Memorial Healthcare systems have both suspended all non-emergency procedures, and in both Miami Dade and Broward counties, 16% or less of intensive care unit beds are currently available.

Dr. Aileen Marty, an infectious disease specialist at Florida International University, said the strain doesn’t stop at the number of hospital beds available.

“We have a shortage of people, people that are trained and ready to take care of these patients,” she said.

Tuesday night, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber conveyed the magnitude of the pandemic in South Florida.

“The real problem is that, because this thing shows up two weeks after a spike, the spikes we just saw, we’re not feeling yet in intensive care or in ventilators and in the sort of the critical care that a lot of those folks need,” he said, “and I think everybody needs to understand that, because if they did, they would know what to do. They would wear masks; they would socially distance themselves.”

The state is sending 100 healthcare professionals to South Florida to help with the influx of patients.

“I think that will be something that will be very useful for them, as they continue to deal with not only just COVID patients but non-COVID patients,” said DeSantis.

In an effort to slow down the spike, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued his restaurant restrictions, one day after he ordered all restaurant dining rooms to reclose this week.

The mayor said it will take a dramatic drop in cases to allow them to re-open.

“It will last for the restaurants until we get a positivity rate of somewhere around 5%, because that is what the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines call for,” he said, “and so we right now are running at a positivity rate of over 20%.”

Something that did reopen on Tuesday in Miami-Dade were the beaches. All South Florida beaches were closed during the Fourth of July weekend.

“We’re coming here first thing in the morning, where we know it’s going to be empty, and we can keep our distance from people and be safe,” said beach goer Michael Wolfe.

While some Florida counties require face masks in public, not all of them do.

Some members of Florida’s Democratic congressional delegation, meanwhile, are pressuring the governor to take action.

“We must demand leadership from him. We have no choice,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “The governor must issue a statewide mandatory mask order.”

As Florida attempts to tackle the spike in cases, a letter published by more than 200 scientists calls for the World Health Organization and others to acknowledge that the coronavirus can spread in the air.

“This is the best way to prevent us from contaminating each other, because now we know it’s an airborne disease,” said Gimenez.

Health experts said that due to the high number of recent COVID-19 cases in Florida and other southern states, contact tracing may no longer be possible.

Restaurants in Miami-Dade had been scheduled to reclose on Wednesday, but Gimenez agreed to a one-day extension, so they will now be closing on Thursday, and the closures will be limited to indoor dining areas.

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