- Orlando officials are urging residents to limit water use amid liquid oxygen shortages.
- Liquid oxygen supply is being diverted to hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients as infections surge.
- But liquid oxygen is also used to treat the water supply, a lack of which could impact the quality of the city's water.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
Orlando officials are urging residents to reduce their water consumption amid efforts to divert liquid oxygen used for cleaning the water supply to hospitals for COVID-19 patients.
Liquid oxygen has been in high demand as the city faces a surge of coronavirus patients, especially given the rapid spread of the Delta variant. As of Friday, the state reported a little more than 150,000 confirmed cases, surpassing 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.
The Orlando Utilities Commission uses liquid oxygen to treat and remove hydrogen sulfide in water for drinking and other uses.
"Demand for liquid oxygen is extremely high as the priority is to use it to save lives and to treat critically ill patients," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said at a news conference Friday. "There are impacts to the supply that OUC normally receives."
"Our hospitals are experiencing the highest number of unvaccinated, critically ill patients at this point as any other point during the pandemic," Dyer continued. "Many of these patients require liquid oxygen."
Dyer and the OUC asked residents on Friday to reduce their nonessential water consumption, including limiting watering their lawns, washing their cars, and taking short showers.
"If we are unable to reduce water demand, hospital needs continue, and the supply remains limited, OUC water quality may be impacted," Linda Ferrone, OUC Chief Customer and Marketing Officer, said in a statement. "But, we believe that will not happen if everyone does their part to conserve water."
The "extremely high demand" and shortage in liquid oxygen, according to Dyer, comes as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to wage a war on mask mandates and vaccine requirements. The state faces one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the country, correlating to Florida's low vaccination rates.
As of Thursday, about 65% of eligible residents in Orange County, Florida, have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as the total number of confirmed cases in the county approaches 200,000, according to data collected by the Orange County government. Dyer credited the possible impact on the city's water quality to low vaccination rates in the city.
"It's another result of what happens when the residents do not get vaccinated," the mayor said.