Florida’s emergency management chief said Sunday the state would be able to meet the need for critical-care hospital space and ventilators.
He added that the state has a dedicated team of people who are assigned to plan for how Florida should deal with the threat of a hurricane during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Atlantic hurricane season begins June. 1
“I have full confidence that we’ll be able to meet the ICU capacity,” state Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said in an interview with Miami television station WPLG. “We feel that we’ll be able to meet the capacity as far as the beds, or the potential bed issue, or the potential issue with ventilators.”
When he was asked about a projected peak need in early May of 2,500 beds and a current capacity of less than 1,700, Moskowitz said the state has already purchased and received 4,300 hospital beds to meet the need.
Moskowitz also explained that field hospitals have been established in Broward and Miami-Dade counties; field hospitals are pre-positioned for Jacksonville and the Orlando area; there is capacity for a 400-bed hospital to be set up at the Miami Beach Convention Center; and work is being completed to reopen two closed facilities in Miami-Dade County.
According to Moskowitz, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services “have been fantastic” about responding to Florida’s requests for ventilators from the national supply, and the state has already received four shipments.
There are currently more than 4,000 ventilators available in the state, and Emergency Management is working with places such as ambulatory surgery centers to relocate some of their equipment.
“We are gathering up those resources, pre-positioning them, just like we would do in a hurricane” so they can be used in hospitals when needed.
In terms of emergency managers planning for hurricane season during the coronavirus outbreak, “Even with this pandemic, I’m not planning for tomorrow or planning for next week. I’m planning for the month after that and the month after that,” Moskowitz emphasized said.
To that end, a “planning cell” has been separated from operations at the state Emergency Operations Center in order to focus on hurricane planning. Among the questions it is considering are: How shelters will be operated? Will there be evacuations out of, or into, “hot zones,” depending on where a storm is headed? Will schools be used as shelters?
“These are all the things that we’re developing plans and procedures around with COVID-19,” Moskowitz said. “We have to do that in the emergency management space.”