JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — UF Health Jacksonville set its one-day record for patients testing positive for COVID-19 as the Delta variant continues its rapid spread.
The previous one-day record of 125 patients was in set in January. However, on Tuesday, the hospital reported 131 positive cases of COVID-19 among their patients, according to Chad Neilsen, Director of Infection Prevention at UF Health.
That number dropped to 122 after discharges and patients being released from the emergency room. However, Neilsen said the number of patients testing positive for COVID-19 remains high.
"We've got 40 other patients who are undergoing testing right now as well," Neilsen said Tuesday afternoon. "So assuming 10% of those become positive, we're right back up to almost 130."
The high number of patients is causing hospitals to reach near their capacity.
"Certainly you have UF Health North is already running close to capacity., and if not over, depending on the hour," Neilsen explained. "Here Downtown, we could run out of licensed beds by the end of the week."
Although both hospitals are at near capacity, UF Health does have plans in place to handle a potential surge in patients. Neilsen's real concern, however, is staffing a possible influx of patients.
"And with an increasing number of employees who are going out on quarantine or you know, are unvaccinated, it's causing some staffing challenges," Neilsen said. "We can put beds in hallways and conference rooms; we can put patient beds in my office, but if we don't have the staff to take care of those patients, it doesn't matter."
Neilsen said the stress is having an effect on hospital staff. His staff is fighting low morale and burnout from the sudden spike in cases. Some staff have even left the medical profession due to the stresses brought on by the epidemic.
"We have burnout," Neilsen reflected. "It's been a long year and a half. And unfortunately, I just don't know when it's going to slow down."
However, staff will not be the only ones to be affected by the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. The spike in cases prompted UF Health Jacksonville to change its visitor policy and reschedule some elective surgeries.
"We operate or we do a procedure, and then they need a bed after, for at least a night," Neilsen explained. "We're running out of staff resources to put to those beds. And so we have begun rescheduling some elective procedures and surgeries moving forward."
Neilsen said this new resurgence of COVID-19 serves as a reason for people to get themselves vaccinated.
Roughly, only one in two people in Florida has received a COVID-19 vaccine. Many of those now being hospitalized with COVID-19 are those who are not vaccinated.
"The majority of patients who are filling up our Jacksonville hospitals right now were unvaccinated," Neilsen said. "We know the vaccines are safe and efficacious against the Delta variants."
Neilsen said he is ready for COVID-19 to be a thing of the past. However, he notes the only way that can happen is if people get their vaccine quickly.
"We're pleading with those who haven't done so get vaccinated," he said. "Vaccines are our way out of this."