Orlando officials urge residents to limit water usage to preserve oxygen supply for COVID-19 patients

Orlando, Fla., officials are asking residents to limit nonessential water usage for two weeks to preserve liquid oxygen, which is used to treat severely ill patients hospitalized with COVID-19. 

The region is experiencing a shortage of liquid oxygen amid a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, the Orlando Utilities Commission said in an Aug. 20 notice. Liquid oxygen is a resource used in water treatment and in hospitals for respiratory therapy. 

To ensure hospitals have an adequate supply amid a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations, residents are being asked to temporarily pause nonessential water usage, including watering lawns and washing vehicles. 

"If [Orlando Utilities Commission's] liquid oxygen supply continues to be depleted and water usage isn't reduced, water quality may be impacted," the notice said. "But, we believe that will not happen if everyone does their part to conserve water." 

Since the shortage is in part tied to COVID-19 hospitalizations, it's difficult to determine how long the shortage will last, though residents should expect nonessential water conservation measures to continue for at least two weeks, officials said. 

Orlando Health is also conserving water at its hospitals to help the city address the oxygen shortage, The Washington Post reports. 

"These measures will have a minimal impact on the operations of our health system and will be continuously evaluated and adjusted as needed to ensure the best use of our resources according to the needs of our patients," Nicole Ray, a spokesperson for the health system, told the Post. "Our team members and medical staff continue to handle this surge, not unlike a year ago at this same time, in a professional and exemplary way and remain ready to serve the residents of our community." 

More than 17,000 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in Florida as of Aug. 22 — a 28 percent increase from the last two weeks, according to data from The New York Times. The state is now the third in the U.S. to surpass 3 million COVID-19 cases, USA Today reports. 


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