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Hospitals in Charlotte County announce their plan for surge in ICU patients

Doctors have been recommending that people wear masks, practice social distancing and wash their hands to make sure they keep themselves safe. But it doesn’t just affect them, it affects the entire community. And those recommendations have been helping.

“We’re seeing a lot more people recover at home, which is a good thing,” said Joseph Pepe, a health officer for the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County who has a Ph.D. in education.

Unfortunately, cases have spiked across Southwest Florida, causing more people to go to the hospital. “The hospitalization rates have slightly increased, but not enough to overwhelm the hospital system,” Pepe said.

The system may not be overwhelmed just yet, but there is a low number of ICU beds.

The Agency for Healthcare Administration (ACHA) said there are only five ICU beds available currently in Charlotte County.

Meanwhile, Fawcett Memorial Hospital in Charlotte County responded to a WINK News request, saying it has the capacity to care for patients. Bayfront Health of Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda says it’s willing to make more inpatient beds for those with coronavirus available if the need arises.

And while those numbers are constantly changing, only a small number of those beds are occupied by coronavirus patients. “The majority of the patients are cardiac patients. We have a very small or very low utilization for [COVID-19] patients,” said Pepe.

For now, local hospitals fluctuate between 60% and 70% capacity. But even if there is a surge in cases of COVID-19, Charlotte County and its health care system is ready.

Pepe said, “If a hospital becomes full, they can divert patients to other facilities as well as they have options to expand to other parts of the hospital to handle those wings as well.”

To prevent that from happening, Pepe and other health officials, recommend more social distancing, more mask-wearing and better hygiene. “I think anything that we can do to help make it safer to live and play would be better,” he said.

Joseph Pepe will be doing a Facebook LIVE Thursday on the Charlotte County Facebook Page.

Wednesday, Punta Gorda City Council is meeting to discuss if masks will be mandated. And Wednesday next week, Charlotte County commissioners are expected to do the same.

Reporter:Erika Jackson
Writer:Drew Hill
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