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Duval COVID-19 Hospitalizations Show Steady Rise; Medical Leader Expresses Concern

A man being helped by a nurse while he sits in a hospital bed looking at her.
Alessandra Tarantino
/
Associated Press
As of Friday afternoon, there were 199 Duval County COVID-19 hospitalizations.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have been on the rise all week in Duval County, rising once again from Friday morning into the afternoon.

As of 9 a.m., there were 188 COVID-19 hospitalizations in the county, as opposed to 182 Thursday evening. 

By 10:30 a.m. Friday, that number took another jump to 199 hospitalizations.

Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, said while the number of hospitalizations aren’t as high as they were in the summer, there is still cause for concern among the county’s hospital leadership.

Related: Publix, Winn-Dixie Among Stores Announced To Carry Eventual COVID-19 Vaccine

“Compared to where we were about two or three weeks ago, the trend is not promising in terms of the numbers of people who are being admitted for COVID-like symptoms,” Joshi said. “So yeah, we're moving in the direction that we don't want to be moving in at this point.”

According to the Agency for Healthcare Administration, the total hospital capacity in Duval County is sitting around 21%, which Joshi said is still typical around this time of the year.

“If we're sitting there at about 15% or less capacity, that means 85% of our beds in the region are occupied,” Joshi said. “If we're going through a pandemic at that time, that's when we really need to be discussing the severity of hospitalizations and where we are with hospital beds at that point.” 

Meanwhile, adult ICU bed capacity is closer to 15%. 

Joshi said as COVID-19 has spikes around the country, he’s worried that the local region is just a month or so behind from being in the same situation. 

“This is the time of the year our hospitalizations tend to go up for respiratory illnesses and other conditions,” Joshi said. “So available beds capacity in hospitals start to go down this time of the year, regardless of COVID. And now, you're starting to see almost 200 people in the hospital just with COVID. Imagine if those numbers start to go up, and we start to combine that with people who may have the flu as well. That’s just concerning.”

A spokesperson from Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s office said they haven’t noticed anything alarming yet. 

“We continue to keep in constant contact with hospital administrators and at this time, they are not experiencing significant spikes related to COVID cases,” the spokesperson Nikki Kimbleton said via email.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Aaron Bowman sent an email to City Council President Tommy Hazouri Friday about the need for better COVID-19 safety measures. 

“It's certainly not an email I enjoyed writing, but I knew I had to,” Bowman told WJCT News. “Now my only regret is that I didn't write it earlier.”

This comes after Councilman Scott Wilson tested positive for COVID-19. Bowman said several other staff members have had to quarantine due to potential exposure. 

In the email, Bowman asked several questions as to why there weren’t more protective measures, such as plexiglass barriers for executive chief assistants and between council member seating, and why there aren’t screening measures before using the elevator.

“Several council members and staff fall in the high risk category, myself being one of those. I am requesting immediate answers to my questions and a path forward that ensures we do not put any more people at risk,” he said in the email. 

The city canceled this week’s City Council meeting, along with several others. It has already canceled next week’s standing committee meetings. 

Bowman said he hasn’t heard back from Hazouri yet. He said he would prefer to be back in the council chambers, but under safer guidelines.

“We're talking about people's lives,” Bowman said. “It's not that maybe we disagree on legislation. We're talking about the safety of people and their families, and I gotta believe everybody is an agreement.”

At the end of October, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order to allow virtual City Council meetings expired. 

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.