Brevard County officials announced on Friday that the COVID-19 testing site at the Rockledge city center will be closing Saturday due to a decreased demand in testing that follows a decrease in COVID-19 case rates. Meanwhile, understaffed hospitals countywide continue to struggle with COVID-19 case load despite a drop in infections.
According to John Scott, Brevard County Emergency Management Director, as the demand for testing has decreased countywide, the county will decrease the supply available in order to efficiently use county resources.
"One of the things we work hard to do in emergency management and with our partners is to always make sure we're utilizing all of our available resources as effectively and responsibly as we can and given the demand we've seen drop off, especially at the Rockledge site, in consolation with our partners we thought it was the right time to move that operation, to close it down because we still have three testing sites throughout the county," Scott said.
John Davis, community health nursing director at the Florida Department of Health- Brevard, stated that at testing sites the department of health runs, FDOH is administering 300 tests, a decrease in testing compared to a few weeks ago when residents could expect to wait in long lines for hours before getting tested.
The decline in testing demand follows a drop in COVID-19 cases, according to Davis: Last week, Brevard county had 1,300.9 cases per 100,000 population; this week, the Space Coast will see case rates that hover around 1,000 cases per 100,000 population.
Though the dwindling case rates are a positive sign for the Space Coast after weeks of record breaking numbers, Davis cautioned that 1,000 cases per 100,000 population was still a high rate.
"Anything over 100 cases per 100,000 puts us in the high transmission category for our community. So we're 10 times that level right now," Davis said. "So I do want to emphasize that there's still a lot of infection out there in the community."
Davis added that hospitals statewide saw a 12% decrease in COVID-19 hospitalizations. However, Davis added that ICU admission rates have increased.
Natalie Sellers, Parrish Medical Center spokesperson, said the Titusville hospital had seen a total of 437 COVID-19 patients from Jan. 1 to Jan. 27, with a daily average of 113 inpatients and 79 in the emergency department.
Of those admitted for care in the past month, Sellers said 190 were vaccinated and 270 were unvaccinated. Additionally, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Parrish Medical Center has 33% of its ICU beds available as of Jan. 24.
Due to the high patient load, Parrish Medical Center has stopped allowing general visitation, though the hospitals patient experience professionals are available to help friends and family of patients find visitation alternatives like video conferencing.
Sellers added that Parrish Medical Center is "still operating normally, we are still continuing to do elective surgeries as normal but from a hospitalization, I would say that when a person does require hospitalization they are very sick."
According to a Facebook post, Health First's four hospitals —Palm Bay Hospital, Viera Hospital, Holmes Regional Medical Center and Cape Canaveral Hospital— had 176 COVID-19 patients as of Jan. 25, 99.4% of which were unvaccinated, and are seeing a downward trend in hospitalizations.
According to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Holmes Regional Medical Center had 10.29% of its ICU beds available; Palm Bay Hospital had 0% of its ICU beds available; Viera Hospital had 5% of its ICU beds available; and Cape Canaveral had 8.33% of its ICU beds available as of Jan. 24.
Though experts nationwide have stated that omicron is less deadly than the delta variant, Davis explained that the highly-contagious omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has infected significantly more people than delta did. And, he added, because more individuals are infected, the risk of someone with a comorbidity getting infected and being hospitalized and potentially dying increases.
"We continue to see ICU admits, so the danger is real," Davis said.
Davis added that masking-up, vaccinating, testing, staying at home when sick and social distancing are all ways Space Coast residents can best protect themselves and others from COVID-19.
"This is a community-wide problem. It takes a community-wide response. I mean, part of our responsibility is protecting those that may not be as healthy as a particular person might find themselves to be and its part our responsibility to protect those that are more vulnerable than us," Davis said.
Where to get tested:
The following Brevard County Emergency Management Office-supported sites are available for COVID-19 testing.
Florida Department of Health-Brevard, 2555 Judge Fran Jamison Way, Viera; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. This is a walk-up site. Preregister at nomihealth.com.
Parrish Medical Center, 951 N. Washington Ave., Titusville; 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday, This is a drive-thru site. No appointments are required.
West Melbourne Community Park, 3000 Minton Road, West Melbourne (use Fell Road entrance to the park); 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Sunday. This is a walk-up site, with preregistration recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. Preregister at patientportalfl.com.
Testing also is available to established or new Omni Healthcare patients at its offices in Brevard County. To book an appointment, patients can call their Omni doctor's office.
Various other urgent-care centers, private physicians' offices and pharmacies also provide COVID-19 tests, and some retailers sell in-home test kits. Additionally, the website www.211Brevard.org has a list of sites offering testing. Some of those sites require reservations, while others allow walk-ins.
Where to get vaccinated:
The Florida Department of Health is offering COVID-19 vaccines at three sites.
Melbourne clinic, 601 E. University Blvd., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Those ages 5-11 can get vaccinated only from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Friday.
Titusville clinic, 611 N. Singleton Ave., 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Those ages 5-11 can get vaccinated only from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Friday.
Viera clinic, 2555 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Those ages 5-11 can get vaccinated only from 8 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.
Residents also can get vaccinated at Omni Healthcare's offices, as well as at its walk-in vaccination clinic located in Suite 303 on the third floor of 1344 S. Apollo Blvd. in Melbourne, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays. Vaccinations also are available from 9 a.m. to noon in Suite 2C of Omni's 1344 S. Apollo Blvd. complex
Walk-ins are accepted. But appointments can be made by calling 321-802-5515 or by emailing the request and including a name and phone number to COVID@OMNIhealthcare.com.
COVID-19 vaccines also are available at pharmacies at various local CVS, Publix, Sam’s Club, Walgreens, Walmart and Winn-Dixie stores, as well as some urgent-care centers and physician offices. Check the individual site for appointment requirements and vaccine availability.
Status of the monoclonal antibody treatment:
Though the Brevard County monoclonal antibody site in Rockledge paused its distribution of the treatment on Tuesday after the Food and Drug Administration removed its authorization, OMNI Healthcare will continue to administer the monoclonal antibody treatment sotrovimab to patients dependent on the weekly allocation that OMNI Healthcare receives from the state of Florida.
Those interested in receiving the treatment can check whether supply is available that week on the website omnihealthcare.com and at covid19testbrevard.com. However, because of the nationwide shortage, eligibility is limited to patients who are unvaccinated and meet CDC guidelines. Treatment will be administered at OMNI's offices on 1344 S. Apollo Blvd. Suite 303 in Melbourne from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and on 845 Century Medical Dr. Suite B in Titusville from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays.
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Brevard County hospitals still impacted by high COVID-19 cases