COVID-19 patients fill Florida hospitals as Gov. Ron DeSantis touts antibody treatment

Florida accounted for nearly 17 percent of the 101,050 COVID-19 patients hospitalized nationwide Thursday, according to data posted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Florida hospitals reported 16,833 patients with COVID-19, a figure driven by the rapidly spreading delta variant of the coronavirus and the state’s large number of unvaccinated residents.

Also, 95 percent of the state’s 6,888 intensive-care unit beds were occupied.

The surge in patients has put a strain on the state’s health-care system, with 52 hospitals reporting that they had critical staffing shortages on Thursday. Meanwhile, 56 hospitals reported that they expected critical staffing shortages within a week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he believes the pressure on hospitals can be eased if people with COVID-19 get monoclonal antibody treatment soon after diagnosis. There are 21 state-supported monoclonal antibody treatment sites across Florida that, the governor's office said, have assisted 13,000 people. The state-supported centers provide access to monoclonal antibody treatment produced by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron.

Also, the state reported 21,183 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, according to data posted Thursday on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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