Orlando's COVID Surge Threatens The City's Water Supply

orlando florida cut down water usage covid 19 hospitals
(Mario Tama/Getty Image News)

Orlando’s liquid oxygen shortage is just another example of how the choice to not vaccinate against COVID-19 affects more than the individual.

In Orlando, as hospital staff work tirelessly around the clock, supplies used to treat COVID patients, like liquid oxygen, are depleting quickly. Liquid oxygen is also what the city uses to treat water for residential and commercial use. As hospitalization rates continue to skyrocket in Florida, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer took to Facebook, imploring residents to cut down water usage as liquid oxygen supplies run low in hospitals.

“Nationally, the demand for liquid oxygen is extremely high as the priority for its use is to save lives, which is limiting the supply that [Orlando Utility Commission] is receiving. There could be impacts to our water quality if we do not immediately reduce the amount of water we need to treat.”

Dyer went on to ask that everyone conserve water and cut down on water use for things like “the watering of lawns and washing of cars.” He also added that residents should get vaccinated as well.

“This is another impact of the virus continuing to surge in our community. And it’s another result of what happens when residents do not get the vaccine and become critically ill, needing medical support and treatment,” he concluded.

If water use isn’t reduced, the Orlando Utilities Commission warns they will have to issue a boil-water alert.

According to the Orlando Utilities Commission, if these reductions do not happen, they might have to issue a “boil-water alert,” AKA a city-wide notice to boil water for drinking and cooking as the OUC won’t have the resources to filter and clean said water. The OUC said this boil-alert could happen in as quickly as a week if residents and businesses do not cut down on water use and COVID infection rates and hospitalizations continue to climb. If everyone in Orlando follows the water use restrictions, the limit may only have to last two to three weeks, OUC estimates. Residents can cut down water usage by taking shorter showers, repairing any leaky faucets, and installing low-flow shower heads and water-saving flush valves for toilets.

“It’s a pretty simple thing that we are asking our residential customers,” Dyer said. “Let’s just not water your yard for a week. In all likelihood, there will be thunderstorms during the week anyway.”

Florida has one of the lower vaccination rates in the country, hovering around 51%, and the state also holds the title of having one of the highest infection rates. From August 6 to 20, Florida experienced an 82% increase in cases, and as of August 18, roughly 17,000 COVID cases take up 55% of ICU beds in Florida hospitals.