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South Florida ‘expected to hit a peak’ in COVID-19 cases as Thanksgiving nears

Sacrificing holiday traditions may be necessary to keep us safe, medical experts say

South Florida reaching another coronavirus peak, leaders say
South Florida reaching another coronavirus peak, leaders say

MIAMI – The message from South Florida’s frontline medical personnel is clear: Preventing hospitals from facing mounting pressure on ICU beds all depends on you. The choices you make each day will determine how many of our neighbors and loved ones will fall so sick with COVID-19 that hospital treatment is necessary to save their lives.

“Right now we are seeing a very gradual but steady increase in the number of patients being hospitalized for COVID-19,” said Dr. Yvonne Johnson, Chief Medical Officer at Baptist Health South Miami Hospital. “We certainly have adequate ICU capacity, but we are hoping not to use that capacity to put COVID-19 patients into the hospital. We are hoping our community can rise up again as we did before and bend this curve.”

A spokesman with the Florida Division of Emergency Management points out that 21% of ICU beds and 22.5% of total hospital beds are available statewide, meaning that “at this time, there is no demand for field hospitals.”

But rising case numbers and positivity rates are concerning many. On Friday, Florida’s health department reported 6,933 new COVID-19 cases, the highest single-day increase not involving a data backlog since Aug. 8.

Jennifer Moon, Miami-Dade’s deputy mayor, told county commissioners Friday that we are indeed experiencing a spike.

“We’re expected to hit a peak in the third week of November — most likely around Thanksgiving,” she said.

A holiday traditionally celebrated with large gatherings, crashing into months-long pandemic fatigue, creates a potentially dangerous combination.

“It is one holiday season we need to sacrifice and do the right thing,” Johnson said. “And not put the pressure on the hospitals that we saw back in the summer.

“We saw back in the summer what happened when we disregarded guidelines and celebrated Memorial Day and Fourth of July. ... This year we need to sacrifice that big family gathering for the sake of all us in the community.”

Dr. Thomas Macaluso, VP and interim chief medical officer for Memorial Healthcare System, also says we are seeing a “concerning increase in the number of [COVID-19] patients in the community.”

“We are in this for a while, and until we have an effective vaccine, we can’t let our guard down,” he said. “We are just seeing too many people die.”

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."