PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – There is frustration and concern in Broward County that if the coronavirus outbreak continues down this path, there may need to be a countywide shutdown.
“We are running out of [hospital] bed space because all of these stupid people who insist it’s nothing worst than the flu are wrong,” said Steve Geller, a commissioner and the county’s vice mayor. “The flu doesn’t fill our intensive-care units.”
Those are harsh words from a local leader who is trying to avoid a shutdown.
On Thursday, Broward’s COVID-19 cases increased by 1,413 to a total of 35,566 since the start of the pandemic.
ICU bed capacity at Memorial West Hospital in Pembroke Pines is at 180 percent.
Is it time to shut Broward down like in the early days of the outbreak?
“It looks grave from where we are,” Mayor Dale Holness said. “We have to look at two measures — are the measures we are taking working ... two, if the hospitalization gets worse, we are gonna have to shut down. But as of today, I wouldn’t say shut down.”
The mayor says the health department has told him that 80 percent of the cases spread within families and at gatherings.
“BSO had 1,100 calls [about] house parties since March,” Holness said. “1100 calls! That’s out of this world.”
Geller added that he’s “angry because I am trying to prevent shutting down the businesses, which would be devastating. If we shut down the business community again, a lot of those businesses will never reopen.”
Code enforcement in Broward cities have issued 766 warnings for non-compliance of safety rules, though there have only been 57 citations. There are 471 complaints in Broward pending right now.
The mayor has asked cities to stop issuing warnings and to issue citations.
Another commissioner, Dr. Barbara Sharief, said the county may need to take steps like Miami-Dade did, banning indoor restaurant dining and implementing a stricter curfew.
“We can go and legislate and put whatever we want on paper,” she said. “The reality is, until people decide they want to take personal responsibility for what’s going on, were never going to be able to accomplish what we need to accomplish.”
Said Geller: “We are just telling them to wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands with soap and water. And that seems too much for some people. And it’s killing others. So, yeah, I’m a little angry about that.”