Florida requests 300 ventilators from federal government as COVID cases keep rising

Gov. DeSantis says he isn’t aware of that request

Hospital leaders in South Florida say they are getting overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, almost all of whom are unvaccinated. And now the Delta plus variant is becoming a new concern.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – As a result of the increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the state of Florida requested 300 ventilators from the federal government, according to a Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained by ABC News.

The request was made on Friday “to replace expended state stores,” the document said.

The ventilators were expected to be delivered on Monday, though it was not said how they will be allocated.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that he was not aware of such a request when asked about it.

“I have not heard about that, so I have to check to see if that’s true or not,” he said. “I would honestly doubt that that’s true, but I’ll look. We have a lot of stuff that we stockpiled over the last year and a half through the department of emergency management. I have not had any requests across my desk. I haven’t been notified of that.”

It comes as doctors are stressed and hospitals are tapped for resources, their beds continuing to fill with unvaccinated patients infected with the virus.

“The nurses, the physicians, they have passed burnout a long time ago,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward Health’s chief medical officer. “This is sheer exhaustion”

Florida reported an average of over 19,000 new coronavirus cases per day last week, and more than 13,000 hospitalizations were reported across the state Sunday.

CDC metrics on Monday showed five consecutive days with more than 20,000 new infections.

Those numbers were disputed by the Florida Department of Health, however. FDOH sent out several tweets Monday night correcting several media outlets that reported a large number of cases.

FDOH later tweeted that the most recent days of new cases were:

  • Friday: 21,500
  • Saturday: 19,567
  • Sunday: 15,319

That computes to a three-day average of 18,795.

Despite the discrepancy in new cases, hospitals say they are being stressed.

“We are close to 90% in terms of our capacity,” Lenchus said of Broward Health.

Broward Health has 336 COVID patients in their hospitals, with 61 new patients added from this past weekend — 96% are unvaccinated.

“99.5 percent of the death that we have because of COVID are in the unvaccinated population,” Lenchus said. “The people who stay here longer are unvaccinated, the people that are a little more severe are unvaccinated, so it really is a big difference. Even if you are vaccinated, and you make it into the hospital, the chances are much higher that you will make it out than if you were unvaccinated.”

There’s also been an explosion of pediatric patients, especially those 13 and older.

“Last year we didn’t see this tremendous explosion of kids,” Lenchus said. “I think part of this has to do with the Delta variant, the increase in infectivity of this, and the fact that those kids at least 12 and younger have not been vaccinated.”

Jackson Health System in Miami-Dade is reporting 363 patients across their hospitals. Only 37 of them are vaccinated — of those, 24 are Miami Transplant Institute patients.

Across Jackson hospitals, they have five pediatric patients, with two in ICUs. At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, there are 24 COVID patients ranging from babies to 18-year-olds. Seven of those patients are in the ICU.

CLICK HERE for information on where COVID-19 vaccines and tests are available in South Florida

About the Authors:

Sanela Sabovic joined Local 10 News in September 2012 as an assignment editor and associate producer. In August 2015, she became a full-time reporter and fill-in traffic reporter. Sanela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a concentration in radio, television and film from DePaul University.