Doctors worry about COVID-19 outbreaks with Christmas, New Year’s Eve

MIAMI – As Florida distributes COVID-19 vaccines this week, hospitals across South Florida are reporting they are using the majority of intensive care beds that are available for COVID-19 patients.

In Broward, hospitals have 4,508 beds and there were 846 available leaving the area with a 15.8% capacity. In Miami-Dade, hospitals have 6,954 beds and there were 1,693 available leaving the area with a 19.5% capacity.

Dr. Andrew Pastewski is among the physicians in South Florida who are warning that the holiday season gatherings will be challenging hospital capacity. They are asking the community to protect those who are most vulnerable.

“I can understand the argument, ‘This could be grandpa’s last Christmas,’ but if he gets COVID it probably definitely will be,” said Pastewski, the ICU medical director at Jackson South Medical Center.

Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to increase. The Florida Department of Health reported on Thursday a staggering 13,148 new coronavirus cases in a single day. Florida’s COVID-19 death toll is 20,594, including 20,305 residents dead and 289 non-residents who died in Florida.

“We are surging in a way that probably makes the second surge look like nothing when it comes to the amount of people that are dying,” Pastewski said.

Nationwide Thursday, COVID-19-related hospitalizations increased to more than 113,000, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And, there were more than 17 million cases and the COVID-19 death toll was at 310,325, according to the John Hopkins’ COVID map.

“We are seeing small numbers of increases on a weekly basis, but the numbers are definitely going up,” said Dr. Randy Katz, an emergency medicine specialist for Memorial Health Systems.

Katz said the crowds at restaurants and bars concern him and social gatherings through the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving were to blame for rises in COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

Katz and Pastewski are both hopeful about the COVID-19 vaccine campaigns.

“Unfortunately, we’ve got Christmas coming and New Year’s, so it’s not looking like it’s going to end for us any time soon,” Pastewski said.

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About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.