36 patients in Keys hospitals for COVID-19
New COVID-19 infections increased yet another week, while hospital beds are filling up with patients testing positive in the Keys and throughout the South Florida region.
A weekly Florida Health Department report issued last Friday indicated 504 new cases in Monroe County. That’s up from 388 the previous week. Bob Eadie, Monroe County’s top health officer, said a report he received Wednesday morning showed 95 positive cases. Thirteen of those cases involved individuals 17 and under.
Cases among those between 20 and 40 are increasing, Eadie said. New infections among those 65 and older are in the single digits.
Thirty-six patients with COVID-19 are currently being cared for at Keys hospitals.
At Lower Keys Medical Center, 20 patients with COVID-19 were being treated as of Wednesday afternoon. Five of those are in the intensive care unit, and one is receiving ventilator care.
“We continue to provide care for many conditions and encourage patients experiencing medical emergencies to seek care immediately,” said David Clay, CEO for Lower Keys Medical Center. “We encourage everyone to follow CDC guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19 and to get a vaccination if eligible.”
Baptist Health South Florida says 16 patients with COVID-19 are being treated in Monroe County. Across its South Florida system, 927 patients are currently being treated.
“I can’t emphasize enough that vaccinations are the true key to getting out of it,” Eadie told county commissioners during an Aug. 18 meeting.
But Eadie said there are positive cases, albeit small, involving those who are vaccinated. A key piece missing during the county commission meeting was Mike Forster. Mayor Michelle Coldiron kicked off the meeting in Marathon by acknowledging that he contracted COVID-19 recently. He’s currently in stable condition at a hospital on the mainland. Forster received the one-shot Johsnon & Johnson vaccine.
“On behalf of the commissioners, we’re all praying for you, Mike,” Coldiron said. “Stay strong for us.”
A Monroe County School District COVID-19 dashboard is back online with students returning to the classroom last week. Data from the first week of school showed 20 students and one staff member confirmed positive with COVID-19. Five students confirmed positive were from Sugarloaf School, four from Horace O’Bryant School, three from Key West High School and two from Coral Shores High School. Fellow students in contact with positive cases are being told to quarantine as a result.
“We have no pediatric hospitalizations or deaths, which is a ray of hope,” Eadie said.
A decision by the Monroe County School Board last week requires facial coverings inside schools and buses for two weeks. Officials will reexamine the COVID-19 status on Aug. 24 and every school board meeting thereafter.
Parents and guardians have the ability, however, to opt out of the requirement. Becky Herrin, school district communications coordinator for the COVID-19 response, said 1,058 opt-out forms were received, as of Wednesday, out of the 8,700 students enrolled.
With confirmed cases increasing, death tallies in the state related to COVID-19 appear to be on a downward trend. Per data by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Florida reported 119 deaths on Aug. 5. Forty-five new deaths were reported on Aug. 11, and 10 deaths were reported between Aug. 14 and Aug. 16.
Eadie said there was one COVID-19-related death in Monroe County this week. It came out of Lower Keys Medical Center.
Baptist Health South Florida system announced that it would be requiring COVID-19 vaccines for its employees, medical staff and volunteers by Oct. 31. Baptist Health South Florida, which serves patients from Miami to the Keys, said a recent survey of employees found a majority were vaccinated.
“However, we recognize that in order to beat this virus together and fully protect our patients, employees, medical staff and community, we all need to be vaccinated for COVID-19,” said Bo Boulenger, president and chief operating officer.
A petition on change.org is requesting Baptist Health to amend their policy and give employees and staff the choice. Some 3,500 signatures were gathered as of Wednesday.
“We believe the threat of losing employment if not vaccinated could be interpreted as a form of implied coercion,” the petition reads. “A considerable number of our employees are rooted in this diverse community and will essentially be forced into a decision to get vaccinated against their wishes.”
New state-sponsored monoclonal antibody treatment sites are popping up, following a press conference by Gov. Ron DeSantis last week. Monoclonal antibody treatments can be prescribed by health care providers to individuals 12 years of age and older who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are at high risk for severe illness and hospitalization.
“Early monoclonal antibody treatment keeps people out of the hospital and saves lives,” DeSantis said. “We look forward to continuing to open these sites throughout the state and hope awareness about the treatment continues to spread.”
Many hospitals are already providing monoclonal treatment, including Mariners Hospital and Lower Keys Medical Center. While the treatment works well, Eadie said there are some side effects that include lowering blood pressure, extreme nausea and dizziness.
“It’s not an easy treatment for everyone,” he said.
A standing order in Florida signed by the state surgeon general allows patients to receive this treatment without a prescription or referral, if administered by an eligible health care provider. Such referrals are not required at any of the state monoclonal antibody treatment sites and treatments are available at no cost to patients.
Just over 980 vaccines were administered to Monroe County residents between Aug. 6 and Aug. 13. That brings the total number vaccinated to 50,586, or about 74% of the county population.
“We’ve done a good job of getting people who live here vaccinated. That goes a long way to you being OK,” Eadie said.
Eadie added that the department of health is working to bring additional vaccination sites to the Upper Keys, as well as two testing sites with one at Islamorada’s Founders Park and the other at Bernstein Park on Stock Island.
Commissioner David Rice told Eadie that he’d like to see daily COVID-19 reports showing the situation in Monroe County. The report, which came out as the pandemic progressed in March 2020 and ended several months ago, detailed everything from new cases by area in the Keys to mortality totals.
“I feel like we have suddenly entered the ‘Twilight Zone,’ because decisions made out of this county, we’re not able to share in current, daily reports that allow all of us to work together to respond quickly,” he said. “This is a disease that acts quickly.”
Eadie said health departments throughout the state are pushing for daily reports from Tallahassee.Florida Keys Weekly