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COVID Cases Surge In Florida, Doctors Challenge Gov. DeSantis To Come Up With A Plan

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - More South Florida hospital patients will have to endure being there with less support.

The surge in COVID cases in Florida has forced several hospitals to severely restrict visitors.

At Broward Health hospitals, patients will only be allowed one designated visitor per day. Children will only be allowed to have their parents with them.

Broward Health said it currently has 122 COVID-positive patients across its four hospitals, only two were vaccinated.

Jackson Health System has also instituted stricter visitor rules at its hospitals. Its number of COVID patients has jumped from 66 to 143 people in two weeks.

The Memorial Health Care System started limiting patient visits last week and may implement further restrictions. In the last 20 days, the number of COVID patients in the Memorial Health Care system has more than doubled from 94 to 234 patients.

The three hospital chains said most of the COVID patients are unvaccinated.

"We are now seeing patients hospitalized that are younger and sicker," said infectious disease specialist Dr. Frederick Southwick.

"If you're somebody who's fully vaccinated, take a little breath here, you're still really well protected by this vaccine. You can do a lot of stuff that you couldn't have done six months ago. But for those who are not vaccinated, this is becoming a pandemic that has you in its sites," said Dr. Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health.

Vaccinations remain a partisan issue. A recent CBS News poll found Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say they will not get vaccinated.

Now some Republicans are trying to get the vaccination message to their supporters.

"Everyone should be vaccinated. There's no reason not to be vaccinated," said Senator Marco Rubio.

He has a good reason to encourage vaccinations. Florida has become an epicenter of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus. It now accounts for around 83 percent of new infections across the country.

Thursday morning, doctors across Florida called out Republican Governor Ron DeSantis and his response to the pandemic.

The doctors are part of the group, "Committee to Protect Healthcare," which they said makes sure elected officials are held accountable.

"After months and months of losing patients, friends and family members, nearly 40,000 Floridians in total so far, it's beyond discouraging to see Gov. Ron DeSantis celebrating. As a physician and a Floridian, I am frankly angry and ashamed," said Miami cardiologist Dr. Bernard Ashby.

"The governor needs to stop taking a victory lap, focus on Florida, and do everything within his power to support getting as many Floridians vaccinated as possible. At each and every step, the governor has chosen politics," said immunologist Dr. Mona Mangat.

On the governor's campaign website, there are colorful slogans and merchandise. For instance, there's a koozie that asks how you can drink a beer with a mask on, another says "Don't Fauci My Florida."

The governor has held firm in his stance that lockdowns and restrictions are not coming back to Florida.

"People need to make decisions on what's best for them. But to have the government come in and lock anyone down, or restrict anybody, it's totally unacceptable. And it's easy for some physicians to advocate that because it doesn't affect them. It does affect the people in the state," he said Thursday morning at a news conference in Fort Pierce.

The doctors said they want a plan from the governor as the cases go up, they say the virus isn't going anywhere.

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