ORLANDO, Fla. – Leaders at AdventHealth have moved the health care chain in Central Florida back to a “yellow status,” taking new precautionary measures due to rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations.
The hospitals have been under a green status, or business as normal, for a few months when vaccinations were increasing but on Thursday, AdventHealth leaders announced they are moving back to yellow status.
“Given the rise that we’ve seen and the potential for capacity restraints in the future, we’re going to proactively move to yellow status,” Chief Medical Officer for AdventHealth Dr. Neil Finkler said.
This status means the AdventHealth hospitals will defer scheduling patients for new elective surgeries. Employees and visitors will again be required to also wear masks in non-clinical settings.
The change also means restricting the number of visitors to the health care facilities. Patients without COVID are allowed two visitors at a time, and patients with COVID are only allowed one visitor per day.
The locations in Hardee, Highlands, Hillsborough, Marion, Pasco and Pinellas counties do not have any changes to its elective procedures or visitor policies, according to a release.
Officials said the decision was due to a surge in cases and hospitalizations driven by the highly contagious delta variant.
As of Thursday, there are 720 patients hospitalized throughout AdventHealth hospitals in Central Florida with coronavirus. At the peak of the pandemic in January, the hospital chain saw 900 patients. Officials said it’s the fastest rate of patient increase they’ve seen throughout the pandemic. Approximately 95% of all hospitalizations from the virus are among unvaccinated individuals.
Florida’s Department of Health and the state Agency for Health Care Administration stopped reporting daily COVID-19 hospitalizations and capacity in early June as cases were falling, however, the state is still required to report some of that data to federal health agencies. The chart below shows Florida virus hospitalizations.
“The vaccinated that are getting sick, have a lot less severe symptoms,” Finkler said. “We know they’re not ending up in the hospital, for the most part, but even their symptoms seem to be shorter and of less severity.”
There has been a rise in breakthrough cases among people who are fully vaccinated but most who test positive have mild symptoms.
“As the numbers rise in the community, and there’s a higher rate of transmission in our community, it’s best that we all wear masks because even though we’re vaccinated, there still can be some breakthrough cases and there’s still the possibility of transmission,” Centra Care Chief Medical Officer Dr. Tim Hendrix said.
Hendrix said Centra Care clinics are reporting a 25% positivity rate for COVID-19 tests. A month ago the rate was 7%.
Now, Hendrix said about one in four who come to Centra Care with symptoms are testing positive, which is a lot more than we were at a month ago when it was at 7%.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the rate should remain between 5% and 10% for two weeks to prove a community has a hold of the virus and is curbing infections.
“This has only taken us less than a month to get to a similar point that’s even higher than what we were seeing during the holidays,” Hendrix said.
The hospital chain remains ready to convert hospital beds to ICU beds if needed but for now that isn’t necessary.
Health care experts with AdventHealth continue to encourage everyone over 12 years old to get the vaccine.
The increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations is a trend happening nationwide and here in Central Florida. Officials in Brevard and Volusia counties issued pleas to their communities this week.