JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The nation’s eyes are on Florida after the White House said the state accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 infections.
UF Health said the First Coast is responsible for 15% of Florida’s cases, and its hospitalizations have doubled in the last week.
“We’re seeing an explosion of cases and unfortunately a lot of these cases are starting to show up in the hospital,” said Chad Neilsen, UF Health director of infection prevention.
Neilsen attributes this to the Delta variant.
“The Delta variant is about 60% more contagious,” Neilsen said. “Combine that with stagnating vaccination rates and no social distancing or masking orders throughout Florida. You’re creating a perfect storm for new infections.”
Neilsen said COVID-19 hospitalizations have doubled in the last week at UF Health Jacksonville with 117 patients, which is just short of the peak of January’s COVID-19 surge.
Nurse Debi Delapaz said seeing this surge is like déjà vu.
“It doesn’t look good right now in the unit,” Delapaz said. “Over one week. We went from 4 or 5 patients to 32.”
“The age of our COVID patients has shifted from the 60s to the 50s,” Neilsen explained. “We certainly have a high proportion of those patients who are in their 20s and 30s.”
Neilsen said that is because younger people have been more reluctant to getting vaccinated.
As of Monday, 49% of people in Duval County have been vaccinated. Neilsen says that’s not nearly enough.
“About 90% of our COVID hospitalizations are unvaccinated,” Neilsen said, "which is important to note because we are having a pandemic of the unvaccinated right now.”
Baptist Health said its also seen an increase in patients.
Baptist Health reported they have 230 patients hospitalized because of the virus with 42 of them in the ICU.
UF Health Jacksonville said it has 35 people in the ICU, with 11 on ventilators.
“Not only are we increasing in cases, but our ICU and vented cases are increasing as well,” Neilsen said.
Neilsen is calling this the pandemic of the unvaccinated, as 90% of those hospitalized have not received the vaccine.
“That 10% that is vaccinated have significant comorbidities,” Neilsen said. “Obesity, hypertension, asthma, immunosuppressed.”
Baptist Health said 98.7% of its patients are unvaccinated.
Delapaz points out that the patients she’s seeing are younger.
Dr. Mobeen Rathore agrees this is because younger people have been more reluctant to get vaccinated.
“We have always had kids in the hospital with COVID 19,” Rathore said. “But the recent upsurge, we have seen more kids admitted to the hospital.”
Though it’s not common for children to die from the virus, Rathore said it’s possible they will have long terms effects from the virus.
Not all children are old enough to get vaccinated, but Rathore said there are still ways they can be protected.
“Make sure everyone around them is vaccinated so we cocoon the kids,” Rathore said.