They have been pressed into duty, but Osceola County’s health care sector and hospitals are weathering the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic well, according to the county’s emergency management director.
Bill Litton said this week that the amount of personal protection equipment (PPE) has been adequate for hospital staffs, as well as front-line county workers who are out in the field and can’t exactly adhere to social distancing measures while carrying out their duties.
“We’re one of the fortunate counties that we have our own warehouse, a repository of PPE,” Litton said, referring to equipment procured and held when SARS and Zika viruses were concerns. “We haven’t had to compete with other counties or states, but here we’ve got the whole state, whole country and whole world affected. Thanks to Jared Moskowitz (the state’s director of emergency management), we’re getting product pushed a couple times a week and the warehouse is here in Orlando.”
How’s things at the hospitals? Thankfully, nothing like the scary scenes from New York, Chicago or Detroit — in fact it’s probably the other end of the spectrum. According to the county’s coronavirus dashboard, the number of available hospital beds has hovered around 300 the last two weeks.
In fact, Litton said he got an encouraging call from Osceola Regional Medical Center this week about emergency provisions.
“They called and said, ‘Thanks for the support, but we don’t need any more requisitions,'” he said. “That’s a green flag for us, saying they’re going back to their normal vendors. That’s a good sign; they’re one of our big hospitals and our Trauma 2 center.”
Those benchmarks and readiness are part of what’s making it possible for Osceola County to be part of the state’s Phase I partial opening of retail shops and restaurants Monday.
“It’s a gated process for re-opening the state; we’ve met that gated process,” Litton said, speaking of decreasing daily numbers of new cases, surge capability and bed space. “We’re tracking it daily. One of the helps was ending elective surgery (those can begin again Monday).”
And if you think it’s been an exhausting experience being quarantined at home, imagine how emergency services feels — they’ve been on Level 1 activation, a full level only seen during recent hurricane responses, for going on seven weeks.
“This is a very unique thing. It’s not like a hurricane, where we’re hunkered down for four or five days, then we go out and the sun’s out,” Litton said. “We’ve had a great response from the community, but we can’t let our guard down, the experts say we could have a second peak and we don’t want that. I encourage everyone going into the fall season to get a flu shot. I think the public’s done a great job so far.”