‘We have flattened the curve:’ Florida governor says hospitals won’t be overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients

No timeline set for when state will reopen

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' hands are shown as he listens during a news conference in front of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mobile command center at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in Miami Beach, Fla. The Corps of Engineers will transform the newly renovated facility into a hospital by April 27, news outlets reported Tuesday. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday painted an optimistic picture of Florida’s coronavirus situation, assuring residents that the curve has flattened and our hospital systems will not be flooded with COVID-19 patients.

As of Tuesday morning, there are 27,495 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, 839 deaths and 4,063 hospitalizations since the coronavirus made its way to the Sunshine State on March 1. The Florida Department of Health does not release information on how many people who were diagnosed with the respiratory illness have since recovered, but DeSantis said “slightly more than 2,000” people are currently hospitalized.

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Records from the Agency for Health Care Administration show that on April 3, approximately 24,300 of the state’s 59,271 hospital beds were available. Numbers from AHCA show that same figure is now at 23,997.

DeSantis said that models released earlier in the course of the pandemic predicted that Florida could see hundreds of thousands of hospitalized patients during this week in April but at this point, he doesn’t expect that to happen.

“Those predictions have been false. Our work is succeeding. We have flattened the curve,” DeSantis said.

Contrary to what the current AHCA figures show, DeSantis said hospital bed availability has increased across the state. He noted that field hospitals have been set up and those “available beds sit empty today.”

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which creates one of the leading coronavirus models, earlier this month predicted that Florida would hit its peak April 23 with 239 death per day.

The models have shifted several times since then. The most recent projections list April 2 as the peak for deaths with 77 that day and April 14 as the peak date for hospital resource use. There was no shortage of hospital or intensive care unit beds on that day.

“We know that the hospitals are not going to get overrun. We know that the No. 1 thing that people were concerned about with this was that type of catastrophe. That’s not gonna happen. That has not happened. We have all these extra beds in field hospitals and nobody’s there. So that’s a very good thing,” DeSantis said.

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Though the governor may have provided a glimmer of hope for some Floridians who worried about the state hospital system’s resources, he couldn’t provide a timeline on when businesses that have been shuttered for weeks due to social distancing guidelines could start accepting customers again.

“I haven’t set a date because I think it’s more important to do it right than to have an artificial deadline,” DeSantis said.

[TIMELINE: The spread of coronavirus in Florida]

The current statewide stay-at-home order is set to expire April 30, so the governor will need to make a decision before then on whether to extend it.

Before a gradual reopening can happen, DeSantis said he wants to see expanded testing, increased lab capacity and the ability to perform antibody testing to try to identify people who could be immune from reinfection.

He mentioned, for example, equipping FDOH labs so they can process close to 20,000 tests per day, up from the current 900.

Overall, DeSantis said he’s pleased with the state’s response to the pandemic and the results seen thus far.

“I’m hopeful that we’re going to come out of this strong," he said.

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