Florida county declares new state of emergency over COVID hospitalizations

While Florida, under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) watch, has been at the forefront of balancing personal freedoms and public safety with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent spike in cases, which is attributed to the delta variant of the virus, is forcing some areas of the state to take extreme measures.

According to The Hill, this week a unanimous vote was passed by Palm Beach County officials on declaring a COVID-related state of emergency after the ICU beds — 12 in total — were filled at a local hospital, with 11 of the beds occupied by COVID-19 patients. 

The idea for the emergency declaration originated from Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, who stressed that the overflowing hospital situation has left the county short-handed as far as available resources and medical staff.

“We do not have the resources available right now in our community to address the needs in certain parts of our community,” McKinlay said during a recent county meeting.

The order will allow the county to bring in medical specialists from other localities “and will also instruct private health care systems to publish real-time data regarding the availability of COVID-19 hospital beds,” according to WPTV.

The positivity rate in Palm Beach County has reportedly skyrocketed in recent weeks, as Palm Beach County Health Director Alina Alonso noted. There have been “9,159 new COVID-19 cases from Aug. 6 through Aug. 12,” with a new positivity rate of 17.8%, which is far higher than June’s rate of roughly 3.2%.

Palm Beach County officials were also concerned over the fact that neighboring hospitals have largely refused to accept new COVID-positive patients of Palm Beach County, often resulting in ambulances waiting outside of hospitals for hours before getting a patient in the door.

In a separate WPTV report, Palm Beach County also generated headlines for defying Gov. DeSantis’ anti-mask mandate laws and moving forward with a face mask mandate for students returning to area schools this week. DeSantis called the county’s decision “disappointing.”

“The forced masking of schoolchildren infringes upon parents’ rights to make health and educational decisions for their own children. No politician is above the law, even the Palm Beach County school board members,” DeSantis’s office said in a statement.