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COVID Hospitalization

Our Town with William Kelly: Area hospitals, swamped with unvaccinated Covid patients, exceed bed capacities

Palm Beach County’s hospitals have been overwhelmed by a wave of unvaccinated Covid-19 patients as the Delta variant continues to sweep through the county and state.

The normal bed capacity for all 14 county hospitals is 2,759. As of Friday, 3,002 beds were occupied, meaning some hospitals were deploying temporary beds to meet patient needs, the Florida Department of Health said in its weekly report on Sept. 3.

Hospitals have put elective surgeries on hold to manage the influx of Covid patients, and there is a weeks-long backlog of patients who need surgery, according to Dr. David Lickstein, chief of surgery at Jupiter Medical Center and Chief of Plastic Surgery at Good Samaritan Medical Center.

The vast majority of hospitalized Covid patients have not been vaccinated, authorities have said.

“As you walk along the hospitals, you can feel the frustration,” said Dr. David Dodson, an infectious disease expert. “All these people on ventilators, struggling to breathe. One-thousand people are dying every day in the United States, and it’s all preventable.”

The Delta variant now makes up more than 93 percent of all new Covid-19 cases as it continues to spread across the United States.

Although still very high, the positivity rates for the state of Florida and in Palm Beach County were down from a week earlier, the health department said.

As of Friday, Palm Beach County’s positivity rate was 12.6 percent for the previous seven days, down from 13.9 percent for the week before. The number of cases climbed by 6,863 to 204,641.

Statewide, the positivity rate was higher – 15.2 percent, compared to 16.8 percent for the prior week. The number of cases in Florida was up by 129,240, for a total of 3,308,916.

Vaccination numbers are steadily climbing, however.

In Florida, about 67 percent of the population of 20.9 million people have had at least one dose, and 55 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Palm Beach County, nearly 57 percent were fully vaccinated as of Sept. 4.

In the town of Palm Beach, authorities say the vaccination rate is nearly 100 percent.

For those with weakened immune systems, booster shots are now available to help prevent recurrences. Publix is offering COVID-19 Pfizer and Moderna booster shots for people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

The grocery chain made the announcement just days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended its emergency use authorization for both vaccines to let some people with weaker immune systems get a third shot.

The CDC is recommending the third dose for people who are immunocompromised.

Judy Goodman, chair of the Palm Beach Civic Association’s Healthcare Committee, said she takes an immune-modulating drug and has already had her booster shot.

Those with compromised immune systems “need to know they are eligible for the booster shot right now,” Goodman said. “They just need to go to Publix and get it.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has said all Americans over the age of 18 will be eligible for booster shots beginning Sept. 20 to bolster their protection against the coronavirus.

There are breakthrough cases when a person tests positive for Covid-19 even after being fully vaccinated. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Palm Beach Fire-Rescue is providing Regeneron, or monoclonal antibody therapy, to residents who are at increased risk for potentially fatal outcomes from contracting Covid-19. The treatment is for people who have had symptoms for 10 days or less.

Anyone interested should contact the Fire-Rescue Department at 561-227-7092 to make an appointment. They will take your information, conduct an initial screening, and schedule a visit to your home to provide the treatment. There is no charge.

Regeneron appears to minimize hospitalizations by reducing the viral load of those who receive the treatment, Dodson said. It is administered intravenously and contains two antibody drugs that work like the antibodies that the body’s immune system naturally produces to battle the coronavirus.