For the first time in weeks, the Covid-19 crisis in Orlando, Florida, is showing signs of improvement, but concerns about a shortage of liquid oxygen in the area persist, threatening Orlando’s water supply.
An official with AdventHealth, which operates the largest hospital system in central Florida, said on Thursday that it was caring for 1,380 Covid patients, a significant drop from the 1,680 reported just two days ago, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
So much liquid oxygen is being used to treat the record number of Covid patients in the area that the Orlando Utilities Commission asked residents last week to shorten their showers and stop watering lawns to conserve water, since the liquid oxygen it uses for water treatment is in short supply.
Despite a “moderate decrease” in usage, concerns persist about the area’s supply of liquid oxygen, with WFTV-TV reporting only about a two weeks’ supply is left to treat the system that supplies water for more than a million people.
“I do believe that we have not only plateaued, but I believe we have peaked,” Dr. Neil Finkler of AdventHealth said at a briefing Thursday.
What To Watch For
Orlando may have been the first city with an obvious oxygen shortage, but the problem has spread throughout the state of Florida over the past few days as hospitalizations continue surging to new record levels statewide. A survey released by the Florida Hospital Association on Wednesday found that 68 hospitals in the state had less than 48 hours’ worth of oxygen left. The oxygen shortage led the water supplier for about 2.5 million people in the Tampa Bay area to issue a warning Wednesday saying there could be a “change in taste and odor in drinking water” due to a shortage of the liquid oxygen it also uses to treat water.
Central Florida is one of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S. from the latest Covid surge caused by the delta variant of coronavirus. The spike in infections since mid-July led Orange County, Florida, Mayor Jerry Demings (D) to declare the Orlando area in a “crisis mode” on July 26, as he urged residents to wear masks and get vaccinated. The rapid spread in the Orlando area would quickly start repeating itself in other cities across the state, and Florida now leads the nation in new Covid cases, averaging more than 21,000 per day. Despite the Covid spike, Gov. Ron DeSantis has actually worked to loosen Covid restrictions in the state, like signing a ban on letting local school districts mandate masks. But many of the state’s largest school districts, including Orlando’s Orange County, have issued mandates despite the governor’s order.