On Monday, June 22, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he was personally intervening with how the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA) reports current ICU capacity and bed availability.
Stating that he wanted only those in ICU (which stands for “Intensive Care Unit“) requiring “an intensive level of care” to be counted, the dramatic announcement has been met with a wave of public backlash.
When Homestead Hospital reached full capacity on Tuesday, June 23, the AHCA data showed they had at least eight available beds. Just a few days earlier, DeSantis publicly stated that all South Florida had plenty of hospital beds available for newly diagnosed COVID patients, despite what the state’s own data indicated — that major hospitals in the area were near capacity.
The political manipulation of the hospital data comes one week after we published the Florida COVID Action website, which prominently features hospital data, specifically ICU capacity, on both the home page and the “Health and Hospitals” tab of the dashboard.
To be fair, the move seems more related to AHCA’s publication of hospital capacity data that is published here (billed as a dashbaord, but is really just a table). It’s the same data that AHCA publishes as an API feed through the Florida Department of Emergency Management.
This move also comes as Florida continues to see its highest number of cases per day for nearly a week straight, totaling more than 130,000 positive persons as of 11:00 AM June 26 and more than 3,400 deaths.
We will continue to report the total number of ICU beds available in the state as AHCA reports it because they are the state authority for such data. However, we have added the following note to the dashboard so that viewers are aware of the changes and how it may impact our access to the true information.
“Notice: On June 22, 2020, Governor DeSantis announced that the state would no longer report the number of occupied ICU beds as it had previously done. Consequently, the number of available beds shown here likely includes beds that are currently occupied, but that the DeSantis administration has determined by an un-disclosed metric could be made available by removing the person occupying it. We continue to monitor this situation for changes and will post any new information as it becomes available.”From the Florida COVID Action dashboard, “Health and Hospitals” page
Florida “leadership” and its role in bucking against the science is nothing new.
In May, Florida fired the lead scientist responsible for reporting and tracking cases and deaths to the public (yours truly).Three weeks later, the head of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Interim Director of Infectious Disease abruptly quit when DeSantis announced schools would be reopening at full capacity in August. Several other key staff at DOH have also quit, resigned or been fired in recent weeks as pressure mounted for further manipulation of data within the department.
Florida never followed CDC guidance on reporting the number of probable cases and deaths, or the number of recovered persons, making Florida’s past, present and future state of coronavirus impossible to analyze.
It is no surprise that a Governor more concerned with vilifying his own scientists than protecting his people would end up causing a massive surge in cases — higher than any other state in the country.