The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, July 07, 2020 1:00 am

COVID floods Sun Belt hospitals

Associated Press

MIAMI – Hospitals rapidly approached capacity across the Sun Belt, and the Miami area closed restaurants and gyms again because of the surging coronavirus Monday, as the U.S. emerged from a Fourth of July weekend of picnics, pool parties and beach outings that health officials fear could fuel the rapidly worsening outbreak.

The seesaw effect – restrictions lifted, then reimposed – has been seen around the country in recent weeks and is expected again after a holiday that saw crowds of people celebrating, many without masks.

“We were concerned before the weekend and remain concerned post-holiday, as anecdotal stories and observed behavior indicate that many continue to disregard important protective guidance,” said Heather Woolwine, a spokeswoman for the Medical University of South Carolina.

Confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states.

Florida, which recorded an all-time high of 11,400 new cases Saturday and has seen its positive test rate lately reach more than 18%, has been hit especially hard, along with other Sunbelt states such as Arizona, California and Texas.

A virus outbreak in the California Legislature indefinitely delayed the state Assembly's return to work from a scheduled summer recess. Five people including Assemblywoman Autumn Burke tested positive. Coronavirus hospitalizations in California have increased 56% in the past two weeks while the number of confirmed cases has jumped 53%.

In Miami-Dade County, population 2.7 million, Mayor Carlos Gimenez ordered the closing of restaurants and certain other indoor places, including vacation rentals, seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen. Beaches will reopen on Tuesday after being closed over the weekend.

“But if we see crowding and people not following the public health rules, I will be forced to close the beaches again,” the mayor warned.

Hospitalizations across the state have been ticking upward, with nearly 1,700 patients admitted in the past seven days compared with 1,200 the previous week. Five hospitals in the St. Petersburg area were out of intensive care unit beds, officials said. Miami's Baptist Hospital had only four of its 88 ICU beds available.

Officials in Texas also reported hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed. Hospitalizations statewide surged past 8,000 for the first time over the weekend, a more than fourfold increase in the past month. Houston officials said intensive care units there have exceeded capacity.

In Arizona, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 topped 3,200, a new high, and hospitals statewide were at 89% capacity.


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