Florida Gets Attention From White House Task Force

State request for more medical reinforcements is being processed, vice president says.

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As coronavirus sweeps across the south, White House task force members Wednesday promised Florida would get more aid, while citing statistics that they said pointed to improvement in the future.

"We are actually seeing early indications of a percent positive testing flattening in Arizona and Florida and Texas," Vice President Mike Pence said.

While it is true the share of all tests coming back positive has leveled off in recent days, it has done so at a record high of 17% over the last week, according to state health department statistics analyzed by NBC 6 Investigators.

Dr. Deborah Birx, response coordinator for the White House effort, also cited a recent small decline in reported emergency room visits by people with COVID-like symptoms.

But that metric had nearly quadrupled in Florida in June before tailing off recently through the July Fourth holiday -- timing that Brix said could cause reporting delays that artificially lower that number.

So she called it a "suggestion of decreasing emergency room visits for symptoms of COVID."

That's not happening at Miami-Dade's busiest hospital system, said June Ellis, associate chief nursing officer over the Jackson Memorial emergency department.

"That has not been our experience," Ellis said. "We continue seeing an increase in COVID-positive patients coming in."

So many it has increased wait times, she said, and at times all 100 spaces in the Jackson Memorial Hospital emergency room are occupied.

"If you walked in today, you would see a lot patients waiting for beds upstairs," where admitted patients are sent after their coronavirus test results come back. She said they are separated into COVID and non-COVID units.

"It’s a good size emergency department," she said, "and we are exceeding the capacity of 100 right now. But you know we’ll never close our doors. We’ll always see everyone that comes through."

About 20% of hospital beds were available Wednesday in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, according to the state Agency for Healthcare Administration.

But only slightly more than 10% of adult intensive care beds were open and staffed in all of Broward County and at Jackson Memorial, AHCA reported.

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