In Florida, hospitals are being stressed by the surge of coronavirus cases. Florida reported 11,466 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday and 128 deaths of residents. It was the fourth day running the state saw more than 100 deaths.
The spike in cases is most acute in the Miami area. Miami-Dade County accounts for nearly a quarter of Florida's 327,241 cases.
On Friday, Miami-Dade County's daily "dashboard" report showed the number of patients admitted with COVID-19 at nearly 120% of intensive care unit capacity.
But Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said ICUs still have beds available. "Hospitals have the ability to add hundreds of ICU beds," he said, by discontinuing elective surgeries and converting recovery rooms into ICU rooms. "We have 450 ICU beds normally, but you have the ability to add another 500. Hospitals are adjusting on a daily basis."
Gimenez said there are no plans, for now, to activate a 450-bed field hospital set up at a convention center in Miami Beach.
Gimenez said hospitals have seen new COVID-19 admissions stay steady in recent days, a sign he hopes that cases may be peaking. In the meantime, the county is working to enforce public health rules, including mandatory face coverings. This week, it adopted an ordinance allowing police and code enforcement officers to issue $100 citations.
"That means you must wear a mask inside public places and outdoors," Gimenez said, "you must social distance or you may get fined."
In the hours after the order was passed, Miami-Dade County officials said they handed out dozens of citations and closed three businesses.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he supports guidelines requiring face masks in Miami-Dade and other counties. But for weeks as cases have surged statewide, DeSantis has resisted calls that he issue a statewide order requiring face coverings.
On Friday, 12 Democratic members of Florida's congressional delegation sent a letter to DeSantis calling again for a statewide mask order and stay-at-home orders in the hardest-hit counties. In their letter, the lawmakers, including Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Donna Shalala, said that "closing part of Florida's economy again would be painful." But "if we continue with the rate of infection we currently have in Florida, our economy will contract and shutter on its own."
In Miami-Dade County, Gimenez said he's waiting to see if stepped-up enforcement and other measures, including a late-night curfew, are effective at stopping large gatherings and other behavior that public health experts said are driving the surge in Florida and elsewhere. Any decisions to order further shutdowns, he said, will be based on data, especially hospitalizations.
"This is a balancing act," Gimenez said. "Starting to shut down again could cause irreparable damage, irreparable harm to people and their livelihoods on a permanent basis."