On Friday, local hospital leaders began pleading for people to get vaccinated, saying delta is more aggressive than the original strain. A new CDC report calls the delta strain of coronavirus “as contagious as chickenpox.”
At a news briefing Friday, Dr. Aharon Sareli, chief of critical care medicine for Memorial Healthcare System, said patients are flooding into emergency rooms and intensive care units quicker than during the two previous waves in Florida — and 98% of them are unvaccinated. Memorial has half of its 200 ventilators in use and has asked the state for more.
“We’ve seen a four-fold rise in COVID patients in the last month and the numbers grow every day,” Sareli said. Of 400 patients, more than 96% are unvaccinated. “We are asking everyone to get vaccinated. Vaccines are not bulletproof, but those who do get infected tend not to be critically ill. This is a preventable loss of life.”
Sareli said only one patient of the 55 now in the ICU is vaccinated.
A teary-eyed Mejia at Memorial Hospital Miramar, spoke out too, saying she is working seven days a week and has witnessed COVID-19’s toll on the unvaccinated who are no longer older with underlying health conditions.
“I have never experienced anything of this magnitude,” she said. “I’ve seen so many lives lost. We have lost husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and young people, as young as 20. In the ICU, we’re the ones right in front of them, and when we get personal with them, we cry.”
Broward General’s Kumar said he expects the visible surge in cases to continue for at least another month, or two. He said he urges residents to wear masks and get vaccinated, noting that Miami-Dade’s and Broward’s low vaccination rate is the reason local counties are leading the country in COVID cases and hospitalizations.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that delta is more contagious and more dangerous,” he said.
Health care workers’ pleas come as the daily COVID-19 case counts across Florida surge to numbers not seen since the height of the pandemic in January. The large daily case count — 17,093 new cases on Thursday — has led to long lines at test sites, curtailed visitor hours at crowded hospitals and ramped-up mask restrictions in government facilities and businesses.
Jennifer Smith, a spokesman for Broward Health, said along with COVID-19 patients, Broward Health has seen an increase in people with other serious illnesses exacerbated by delaying medical care.