New USF analysis predicts a serious hospital bed shortage in Hillsborough County in the absence of social distancing

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This story originally published on April 3, 2020.

A new report outlines the severity of COVID-19’s impact on hospitals in Hillsborough County if measures aren’t taken to follow social distancing guidelines. Researchers from the University of South Florida applied a model that demonstrates the demand for hospital beds could significantly exceed their availability unless social distancing measures are widely followed for two months.

Hillsborough County has a total of 4,060 hospital beds. The report shows that if individuals do not reduce the number of different people they come in contact with each day by at least 45 percent, there will be more than twice as many patients than total hospital beds by June. The shortage does not take into account the number of patients hospitalized for unrelated health conditions.

“Stay-at-home orders will work if people pay attention and we will be able to reduce infections to the point where the hospital system could care for everyone who falls ill,” said Thomas Unnasch, PhD, distinguished professor in the USF College of Public Health. “It will be better to get quality care in a hospital than lying in a tent set up in a parking lot.”

Once medical professionals develop a way to rapidly identify and isolate infectious individuals through testing and contact tracing, population-wide social distancing measures may no longer be needed. Until then, Unnasch says having as many people as possible follow social distancing recommendations and orders will be the only way to keep the pandemic from overwhelming the health care system in Tampa Bay.

The most recent data provided by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Emergency Status System shows current bed occupancy is 62% and current ICU bed occupancy is 66% in Hillsborough County. Patients hospitalized with the coronavirus spend between four and 10 days in the hospital depending on the severity of their infection.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a 30-day statewide “stay-at-home” order on April 1. Hillsborough County issued a “safer at home” order on March 27, which directs residents to remain at home until further notice, with some exceptions.

Reposted from USF Health.