FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward County Mayor Steve Geller painted a grim picture of the COVID-19 crisis in South Florida on Monday morning, sharing concerning statistics from the hospitals and the health department.
“Unfortunately, Dade and Broward County lead the nation in hospitalizations,” Geller said. “The numbers are doubling every 10 or 11 days. Geometric progression. This is horrifying.”
Florida is now the national epicenter for the virus, accounting for about 20% of new cases.
On Sunday, the state broke its record for current hospitalizations, which had been set more than a year ago, before vaccines were available.
Florida had 10,207 people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 cases according to the latest data reported to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. The previous record was from July 23, 2020, when Florida had 10,170 hospitalizations, according to the Florida Hospital Association.
And the virus continues to strike the youngest of victims.
At Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, seven children are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. Two of them are in the intensive care unit.
In June, 36 children went to the pediatric emergency room due to COVID, Geller said. In July, that number soared to 190.
“Please protect the children of Broward County and get vaccinated,” Geller said.
As the county struggles to contain the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, more people are wanting to know if they’ve been infected.
Sky 10 flew over Mills Pond Park in Fort Lauderdale early Monday, where drivers were waiting in lines that lasted as long as 3-4 hours to get tested.
“Before it was very quick, there was no wait, they’d do about 300-350 tests a day,” City of Fort Lauderdale spokesman Mike Jachles said. “And it seems like almost overnight that quickly doubled and even surpassed that.”
The county on Monday opened a South Regional Health Center walk-up testing site at 4105 Pembroke Road in Hollywood.
“We are scheduled to reopen three additional testing sites one week from today [Aug. 9]. Those are at Tradewinds Park, Markham Park and C.B. Smith Park,” Geller said.
Later, the county said that a Tradewinds Park drive-thru testing site would actually open this Tuesday.
[CLICK HERE for more info on Broward testing sites]
Geller says the demand for vaccines is going up too.
“The vaccination rate, which went from great to horrible, is going back up because people, rightfully, are getting scared,” he said.
Geller said he’s not in favor of another shutdown because of the crisis, but he said if the governor and state legislature allowed it, he would issue a mask mandate.
Last week, Broward announced it is now requiring masks inside county-run and county-owned buildings.
[CLICK HERE for information on where COVID-19 vaccines are available in South Florida]
The Delta variant of COVID-19 has become the dominant strain.
Dr. David Andrews, who is leading the University of Miami’s effort to sequence positive COVID samples, said that variant — which is “almost as transmissible as chickenpox” — could account for 80-90% of the region’s cases in the coming week.
“It’s unbelievable that the variant has mutated into a form now that is so transmissible,” Andrews said Sunday on Local 10 News’ “This Week in South Florida.”
WATCH DR. ANDREWS’ FULL INTERVIEW ABOUT COVID VARIANTS BELOW: