The Florida Governor Says Don’t Worry: It’s The Hospitalizations That Matter

June 16, 2020

You may have read or heard that new Covid-19 cases are spiking. We used to think that a couple hundred of new cases were high, now thousands are the new normal. The Governor blames these new cases on increased testings. Obviously, more testing does reveal more Covid cases, but no one knows by how much.

So how can we tell if the virus is expanding? The Governor has cited new hospitalizations, as a better indicator of whether the virus is now spreading. In reality, that is not the case.

New hospitalizations reflect the severity of the virus cases and not the rate it is being spread. That is an important distinction, since many infected people have milder symptoms and never need to check into an ICU hospital room. Unfortunately , they can still spread the virus to more vulnerable people.

So let’s assume the Governor is right and new cases isn’t a good marker for tracking the virus and hospitalizations are.

Daily Hospitalization From March 27 Through June 15

The Chart above shows the daily number of new hospitalizations since March 27th. The average daily rate was 143, with the lowest daily hospitalization was 32 and the highest 265. The last few days it moved lower, but the pattern over time is up and down.

The question isn’t whether the state is in control of the virus, but more if is it capable of handling a significant spike in new hospitalizations, if it happens. Looking at the State’s five largest counties: Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Broward, Hillsboro and Duval Counties, where most cases have occurred, we can see how prepared we are if faced by many life-threatening cases.

Below is a table with each county’s total ICU beds, ICU beds currently available and the percent of ICU beds available.

BROWARD     35211024%
DUVAL       33010825%
MIAMI-DADE  2582625%
PALM BEACH  3129423%

As you can see, it wouldn’t take much of a spike to fill these remaining ICU beds. A bad traffic accident on I-95 could fill the remaining beds in Mami-Dade, and Hillsboro isn’t much better. Palm Beach County has only 59 beds and it’s averaging over 300 new Covid cases a day.

The chart below gives some perspective to the availability of ICU beds compared to the total number of ICU beds in each county. The tiny gray bars are the available ones.

The Governor maybe right and wrong at the same time. Hospitalizations are not, at this moment, significantly rising. But it won’t take much to overwhelm these large county hospitals in jut a few days. It’s his call and the results could determine his political future. Stay safe…

By Jim Kane

Jim Kane is a pollster and media advisor, and was for fifteen years an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Kane is founder of the polling firm USAPoll and served as the Director of the Florida Voter Poll. His political clients have included both Republican and Democratic candidates, including the Republican Party of Florida, and both the Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel newspapers. At the University of Florida, Professor Kane taught graduate level courses in political science on Survey Research, Lobbying and Special Interest Groups in America, Political Campaigning, and Political Behavior. In addition to his professional and academic career, Jim Kane has been actively involved in local and state policy decisions. He was elected to the Broward County Soil and Water Conservation Board (1978-1982) and the Port Everglades Authority (1988-1994). Kane also served as an appointed member of the Broward County Planning Council (1995-2003), Broward County Management Review Committee (Chair, 1990-1991), Broward County Consumer Protection Board (1976-1982), and the Broward County School Board Consultants Review Committee (1986-1990).

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