Florida Covid Surge Is Causing a Water Crisis

The mayor of Orlando, Fla., urged residents to cut down their use of water as supplies dwindle of the resource required to supply liquid oxygen to patients hospitalized with Covid-19.

At a late Friday news conference, Mayor Buddy Dyer and other city officials said that if the city doesn’t cut down on usage, residents could see a drop in water quality. That is because the water treatment center uses liquid oxygen to produce ozone gas as part of the water purification process. But with so much oxygen supply being used by hospitals, the city says it might run out of oxygen supplies for water treatment in the next couple of weeks if demand isn’t diminished.

“If we are unable to reduce water demand, hospital needs continue and the supply remains limited… water quality may be impacted,” said Linda Ferrone, chief customer and marketing officer at the Orlando Utilities Commission, in a statement. “But we believe that will not happen if everyone does their part to conserve water.”

If water quality is affected, the commission may have to issue a system-wide alert notifying residents to boil water before drinking or cooking with it. That could happen in as little as a week. That’s why Dyer is asking residents to dial back their water consumption.

“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.”

The oxygen shortage is not limited to Florida. There is a lack of supply nationwide, driven by the pandemic and made worse by a shortage of available tanker trucks and drivers required to transport it.

According to Ferrone, Orlando’s Utilities Commission usually receives 10 tanker trucks worth of liquid oxygen each week. Now those deliveries have been cut to just five to seven each week, she told the Orlando Sentinel. If it falls below that number, she said, that’s when water quality could be affected.

“It’s another result of what happens when people don’t get vaccinated, become critically ill and require medical treatment,” the mayor said, adding, “If you haven’t been vaccinated, now is the time.”

Currently, according to the latest CDC data, Florida is seeing a seven-day average of 15,564 people hospitalized with the virus, a 13 percent increase from the prior week as the Delta variant spreads. And one in four people who tested positive during the week ending August 19 was 19 years old or younger. Yet the state’s governor is threatening to slash funding to schools that require students wear masks.

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