Northeast Florida hospitals returning to COVID-19 peak amid delta variant surge

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hospital officials in Northeast Florida are urging people to get vaccinated as the number of COVID-19 patients is approaching or exceeding levels they’ve seen during the worst of the pandemic amid the contagion. spread of the more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

UF Health Jacksonville, in Florida’s most populous city, has seen an “exponential” increase in the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in recent weeks, said Chad Neilsen, director of prevention. hospital infections, told ABC News.

The previous record for the highest number of daily COVID-19 patients across two facilities – 125 – was set in January; Neilsen said the hospital passed that level three days ago and is now at 136, with about 40 people in the intensive care unit.

Leon Haley Jr., CEO of UF Health Jacksonville, last week, there were 75 COVID-19 patients in the hospital, 45 patients last week and 20 patients the week before.

“We know it’s most likely because the delta variation has a larger footprint here in Northeast Florida because it’s increasing so quickly,” Nielsen said. “Everybody in town suffered the same fate as us.”

At the Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville hospital, there has been a “significant” increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the past three weeks, said Dr Ken Thielen, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Florida. “close to our previous peak”. -19 press conference Wednesday with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and other local healthcare leaders.

“This represents a fivefold increase in COVID hospitalizations and after weeks when we had only a handful of COVID patients hospitalized,” Thielen said.

There are other similarities between hospitals in the area – the COVID-19 patients they are receiving are largely unvaccinated and they are younger than they have seen before during the pandemic.

Of UF Health Jacksonville’s COVID-19 patients, 90 percent were unvaccinated, and nearly 70 percent were between the ages of 40 and 69, Neilsen said. Before this surge, 75% of COVID-19 patients were 60 years of age or older, he said.

“We are definitely seeing a shift into a younger demographic,” he said.

According to Tom VanOsdol, president and chief executive officer of Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast, which operates a hospital in Jacksonville, more than 96% of its COVID-19 patients are unvaccinated.

“The average age of our hospitalized patients is 49 – that was in the mid-60s during these previous pandemics,” VanOsdol said during Wednesday’s press conference. “So a younger demographic of people who are unvaccinated unfortunately get COVID and these cases require hospitalization for treatment.”

At Baptist Health in Jacksonville, COVID-19 patients are “younger, sicker, and sicker faster,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Timothy Groover said during a press conference.

In the last month, 44 percent of COVID-19 patients at the hospital were aged 40 or younger, and “most were previously healthy,” he said.

As the delta variant quickly became the dominant variant spreading in the United States, Florida was one of only four states to report the highest weekly rate of COVID-19 cases per capita, with more than 200 cases per 100,000 residents. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Monday, the seven-day average of new cases rose 107.48% in Duval County, where Jacksonville is located, according to the CDC.

At the same time, less than half of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. This rate is declining in Duval County, where 41% of residents are fully immunized.

“Vaccines are stagnating here in Northeast Florida, and the lowland variant is running rampant among the unvaccinated,” says Neilsen.

Neilson attributed the latest increase in part to a delta increase that coincided with the July 4 concentration, but said it is difficult to predict possible hospitalizations “because it spreads.” too fast.”

Regional hospitals are worried about burnout and staff shortages as the pandemic rages and unvaccinated staff come into contact in the community and also contract the disease.

“We are facing a real staffing crisis if this continues,” Nielsen said.

Regional health care leaders have issued a call for people to get vaccinated if they haven’t already, and continue to wear masks, social distance and wash hands.

Curry also urged people to get vaccinated – but stopped short of enacting any restrictions.

“The path to going beyond the surge and preventing future diseases is increasing our vaccination rates,” he said at Wednesday’s press conference. “The math is clear – vaccines work. Restrictions on our economy and our individual freedoms are not the answer. The answer is vaccination.”

He added: “The hospitals are full and busy because there are no people to inject, so the solution here is to vaccinate.

Copyright © 2021 ABC News Internet Ventures. | Northeast Florida hospitals returning to COVID-19 peak amid delta variant surge

Huynh Nguyen

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