The all-but-preventable surge of COVID-19 infections rampaging across Florida has prompted Orlando officials to ask residents to stop watering lawns and washing their cars in order preserve a dwindling supply of liquid oxygen used in water treatment so that hospitals don’t run out.
The central Florida region around Orlando has been hit hard and fast as the coronavirus rapidly spreads among the mostly unvaccinated. Critically ill people are pouring into hospitals in need of respiratory therapy, which requires liquid oxygen. Currently Florida’s hospitals are treating more than 17,000 patients with COVID-19 – more than 3,550 of those patients are in intensive care. Supplies of liquid oxygen keep dropping as hospitalizations have risen. Doctors and nurses give oxygen to patients who need help to breathe and to help stave off the damage COVID-19 can cause in the lungs.
Demand has become so high that the city’s water regulator warned that water quality could falter if consumers do not cut back on consumption. “If we are unable to reduce water demand, hospital needs continue and the supply remains limited … water quality may be impacted,” Linda Ferrone, chief customer and marketing officer at the Orlando Utilities Commission, said in a statement. “But, we believe that will not happen if everyone does their part to conserve water.”
In Orlando, the city uses liquid oxygen as part of its process for removing foul-smelling hydrogen sulfide from water pumped in from the Lower Floridan Aquifer.
Orlando officials asked residents and business owners to immediately halt all nonessential work involving water, including watering lawns, washing vehicles and pressure washing until supplies of liquid oxygen have been replenished. They are not asking people to reduce their use of water for cooking, bathing or drinking. Customers should prepare for the conservation measures to last “at least two weeks,” the utilities commission said, although that timeline could change. “This is difficult to determine with certainty because it is tied to the number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals with oxygen.”