Florida Requests 300 Ventilators Days After Banning School Mask Mandates

by Valerie Williams
Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty

Florida is requesting an extra 300 ventilators from the federal government while also threatening to withhold pay from school officials who enact mask mandates

The state of Florida is making headlines daily for its botched handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, made worse in recent weeks thanks to the delta variant that’s causing skyrocketing case levels all over the country. Governor Ron DeSantis has made it a thing to stop mask mandates in schools, even threatening to withhold pay for school officials that decide to mandate masks despite his ban. Now, the state is asking the federal government for another 300 ventilators as their cases and hospitalizations reach heights not seen in months. You can’t even make this up.

A Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained by ABC News shows the state asking for the additional ventilators “to replace expended state stores.” The request comes as Florida’s number of hospitalizations, including children, hits alarming levels. For healthcare professionals, it’s nothing short of a nightmare after so many months of the vaccines giving us hope. “The nurses, the physicians, they have passed burnout a long time ago,” said Dr. Joshua Lenchus, Broward Health’s chief medical officer. “This is sheer exhaustion.”

While there is currently a dispute between reported case levels by the Centers For Disease Control and the state of Florida, it’s safe to say that levels are nothing short of stunning with the weekend’s 3-day average clocking in at 18,795. “We are close to 90% in terms of our capacity,” Lenchus says of Broward Health. The hospital system has 336 COVID patients in their care, with 61 new patients added from this past weekend alone. Alarming but not surprising — 96 percent of them are unvaccinated.

“99.5 percent of the death that we have because of COVID are in the unvaccinated population,” Lenchus says. “The people who stay here longer are unvaccinated, the people that are a little more severe are unvaccinated, so it really is a big difference. Even if you are vaccinated, and you make it into the hospital, the chances are much higher that you will make it out than if you were unvaccinated.”

Most disturbing of all as the new school year begins? The rise in cases in children. “Last year we didn’t see this tremendous explosion of kids,” Lenchus shares. “I think part of this has to do with the Delta variant, the increase in infectivity of this, and the fact that those kids at least 12 and younger have not been vaccinated.”

So a virus that’s shown to infect and hospitalize children is ripping through the state while the governor insists on no mask mandates in schools, and now the state is requesting 300 more ventilators because their number of hospitalized cases is growing. DeSantis is refusing to mandate masks and drawing on the federal reserve of ventilators for residents of his state as case levels continue to climb. Doing the least and asking for the most. That all adds up.