South Florida Medical Officers Say Delta Variant, Unvaccinated Driving COVID-19 Numbers

A key difference from this go-around is the patients are healthier individuals with fewer comorbidities.

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Hospital medical directors say the surge happened quickly. COVID-19 has returned, infecting mostly the unvaccinated. One hospital in South Florida reports a 50% increase in COVID cases from last week.

By and large, hospital systems in South Florida tell NBC 6 they are not having a crisis among staff, ventilators, masks, or other equipment. Doctors are just seeing a large influx of patients driven by the Delta variant of the coronavirus and the large number of unvaccinated Floridians. 

A key difference from this go-around is the patients are healthier individuals with fewer comorbidities. Doctors tell NBC 6 it can be people in their 30s, 40s, and 60s, with no diabetes and no weight issues. 

The Delta variant is hitting younger and healthier people harder, according to Dr. Sergio Segarra, the chief medical officer at Baptist Hospital of Miami.

“It’s much easier to spread and then the people that do get it end up a lot sicker. So it’s that double whammy,” Dr. Segarra said.

Dr. Segarra’s Baptist Health South Florida hospital system on Monday reported 726 patients with COVID-19 in their 10 hospitals. They have opened up four COVID-19 units over the last three weeks. Critical care has doubled in that time and 90% in the ICU are not vaccinated, according to Dr. Segarra. 

Monday’s number at Baptist is a 47% increase from last week, per a spokesman. 

“We are preparing for a couple weeks more. But what is the end game? What is the end result? I don’t know,” Dr. Segarra said. 

The Delta variant of the coronavirus is sending kids to the emergency room at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital at rising numbers. NBC 6's Marissa Bagg reports

Last Friday, Memorial Healthcare reported 420 COVID-patients, setting up additional ICU space to prepare for more. One-fourth of their system patient population has COVID.

Broward Health tells NBC 6 Monday their system has 247 positive patients and only 14 of them are those “breakthrough” cases who have received the vaccine. 

“Nurse-to-patient ratios are fluid. We, like all health systems in South Florida, are taking active measures to ensure the health and well-being of our patients and caregivers,” said Jennifer Smith, associate vice president of corporate communications for Broward Health. 

While staffing is not in crisis mode, chief medical officer at Jackson North Medical Center Dr. O’Neil Pyke says many workers are “exhausted” because they thought they were on the way out of this pandemic. A resurgence of the virus among the unvaccinated brings South Florida right back. 

“Eighteen months into this pandemic. The nursing staff, the physician staff, the attendants are just truly exhausted. They are physically exhausted. They’re emotionally drained from this,” said Dr. Pyke. 

Monday, Jackson Health System reported 238 COVID-positive patients. 

“This was somewhat avoidable. It breaks my heart because there’s so much misinformation about the virus and the vaccine,” Dr. Pyke said. 

Officials say Broward and Miami-Dade are leading the nation in COVID-19 hospitalizations,

Jackson Health Systems is considering mandating vaccination for their workforce and speaking with their worker’s union about its impacts. 

“This is not a decision we take lightly, but vaccination is the only way to stop this pandemic,” wrote Tania Leets-Santana, senior communications specialist for Jackson Health System. 

Mount Sinai hospital system also is seeing an uptick but has not released numbers to NBC 6.

“We urge those who have not been vaccinated to consult with their physician about receiving the vaccine. In addition, we encourage everyone in our community to recommit to efforts to slow the spread of the virus,” Jackie Kaplan from Mount Sinai wrote NBC 6. 

Karina Castano from HCA East Florida did not release specific numbers to NBC 6 either but said they are meeting needs when it comes to beds and equipment. 

“We are actively working to ensure our caregivers have the support they need to safely and effectively care for our patients, including bringing in additional nurses from our sister facilities in other markets, optimizing recruitment to expand staffing and contracting local and national nursing support,” wrote Castano, “We highly encourage everyone to get vaccinated as it is a critical step in protecting yourself and those around you.” 

Health care professionals we spoke with say whether you’re vaccinated or not, they recommend wearing a mask indoors, social distance when possible, and repeatedly wash your hands throughout the day.

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