September 20, 2021

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

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hospital officers in Northeast Florida are urging folks to get vaccinated because the variety of COVID-19 sufferers is approaching or exceeding ranges they noticed throughout the worst of the pandemic amid “rampant” unfold of the extra transmissible delta variant of the coronavirus.

UF Well being Jacksonville, in Florida’s most populous metropolis, has seen an “exponential” rise within the variety of COVID-19 sufferers admitted in latest weeks, Chad Neilsen, director of an infection prevention on the hospital, informed ABC Information.

The earlier document for the best variety of every day COVID-19 sufferers throughout its two campuses — 125 — was set in January; the hospital surpassed that three days in the past, Neilsen mentioned, and is at the moment at 136, with about 40 folks within the intensive care unit.

Final week, there have been 75 COVID-19 sufferers within the hospital, 45 the prior week and 20 the week earlier than that, in accordance to Dr. Leon Haley Jr., CEO of UF Well being Jacksonville.

“We knew it was most likely due to the delta variant taking a bigger footprint here in the Northeast Florida region because it was so rapid of an increase,” Nielsen mentioned. “Everybody in town is suffering the same fate we are.”

On the Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville hospital, there was a “significant” improve in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the previous three weeks, “approaching our previous peak numbers,” Dr. Ken Thielen, CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida, mentioned throughout a COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday with Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and different native well being care leaders.

“This represents a five-fold increase in COVID hospitalizations, and follows many weeks when we only had a handful of hospitalized COVID patients,” Thielen mentioned.

There are different similarities among the many space’s hospitals — the COVID-19 sufferers they’re admitting are largely unvaccinated, and they’re youthful than what they’ve beforehand seen throughout the pandemic.

Amongst UF Well being Jacksonville’s COVID-19 sufferers, 90% are unvaccinated, and practically 70% vary in age from 40 to 69, Neilsen mentioned. Prior to this surge, 75% of the COVID-19 sufferers had been ages 60 and up, he mentioned.

“We’re definitely seeing a shift into a younger demographic of people,” he mentioned.

In accordance to Tom VanOsdol, president and CEO of Ascension Florida and Gulf Coast, which operates a hospital in Jacksonville, over 96% of its COVID-19 sufferers are unvaccinated.

“Our median age of our hospitalized patients is 49 — it was in the mid-60s in prior waves of this pandemic,” VanOsdol mentioned throughout Wednesday’s press briefing. “So it’s a younger demographic who are not getting vaccinated that unfortunately are contracting COVID, and these cases are requiring hospitalization for treatment.”

At Baptist Well being in Jacksonville, the COVID-19 sufferers are “younger, sicker and getting sicker quicker,” Chief Medical Officer Dr. Timothy Groover mentioned throughout the briefing.

Prior to now month, 44% of COVID-19 sufferers on the hospital had been of their 40s or youthful, and “most were previously healthy,” he mentioned.

Because the delta variant has rapidly turn into the dominant variant spreading in the USA, Florida is one in all 4 states reporting the best weekly COVID-19 case charges per capita, with over 200 instances per 100,000 residents, in accordance to the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention.

As of Monday, the seven-day common of latest instances went up 107.48% in Duval County, the place Jacksonville sits, in accordance to the CDC.

On the similar time, fewer than half of the state’s residents are totally vaccinated, in accordance to the CDC. Charges are lagging in Duval County, the place 41% of residents are totally vaccinated.

“Vaccines are stagnant here in Northeast Florida, and the delta variant is just running rampant amongst the unvaccinated folks,” Neilsen mentioned.

Neilson attributes the most recent surge partially to delta’s rise coinciding with Fourth of July gatherings, however mentioned it is exhausting to predict the place hospitalizations is likely to be heading “because it spreads so quickly.”

Hospitals within the area are frightened about workers burnout and shortages because the pandemic wears on and unvaccinated workers are uncovered locally and likewise get sick.

“We’re facing a real staffing crisis if this continues,” Nielsen mentioned.

The realm well being care leaders provided a plea for folks to get vaccinated in the event that they have not already, and to proceed mask-wearing, social distancing and hand-washing.

Curry additionally urged residents to get vaccinated — however stopped in need of issuing any restrictions.

“The path to moving beyond the surge and preventing future ones is increasing our percentage of vaccinations,” he mentioned throughout Wednesday’s briefing. “The math is clear — vaccines work. Restrictions to our economy and personal freedoms are not the answer. The answer is getting vaccinated.”

“Hospitals are full and busy because of unvaccinated people, so the solution here is to get the vaccine,” he added.