Health care workers in South Florida tell NBC 6 they’ve seen an increase in COVID-positive patients since Thanksgiving and warn people to be careful at Christmas gatherings.
“We’re definitely seeing more than we were a few weeks ago,” Dr. David Woolsey, an emergency room doctor at Jackson Health System, told us, describing the COVID-19 crisis as an unwanted routine.
“It’s really changed everything in the whole hospital, not just in the ED (emergency department), in terms of how we can interact with our patients,” Dr. Woolsey said.
In an online NBC 6 survey, 49 doctors and nurses, mostly in area hospitals, share similar concerns: 90% said they saw an increase of COVID-19 cases in the weeks following Thanksgiving.
While medical experts know more about the virus than at the beginning of the pandemic, many worry about people who are tired of restrictions and could let their guard down during the holidays.
About 73% of those surveyed said they had “a lot” or “a great deal” of concern about a post-holiday surge of COVID-19 cases.
“There’s just a lot of virus out there. We’ve gotten tired. We’re behaving more like before the virus,” Dr. Woolsey said.
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It’s a difficult reality as AAA predicts 85 million Americans will travel for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
Mike Hastings, the president of the Emergency Nurses Association, says while the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, not all health care workers have access to it yet. Many, he says, continue to get infected.
“That, unfortunately, means the nurses have to take on more responsibilities and sometimes care for more patients than they’d normally have to care for,” Hastings said.
While 80% said in the survey their workplace had resources to provide care, some worry about the future. More than half said they had “a great deal” or “a lot” of concern their hospital will reach capacity and 65% said they’ve been asked to work overtime or take on additional responsibilities.
The message they want to send is that it’s been a long, tough year in hospitals, and they don’t expect it to ease up any time soon.
“People are starting to get the vaccines. However, we’re still in the marathon. We can see the light at the end of the race there, the finish line. However, we still have a long way to go,” Hastings said.
The latest White House state-by-state report from Dec. 13, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, has Florida in the “red zone,” meaning cases and deaths are on the rise. This will be the third major wave of the virus in Florida.
Ahead of Christmas week, health care workers, including Dr. Woolsey, urge families getting together to wear masks, socially distance and to avoid putting the vulnerable or elderly at risk.