“I remember seeing articles in the news about hospitals in California with empty Covid units and I wanted the experience,” said Segarra, the chief medical officer at Baptist Health’s Baptist Hospital. “It’s an experience we were working towards and which unfortunately took a rather sad turn. “
In the weeks that followed, the number of Covid-19 patients at the hospital more than tripled, and staff are now treating more than 70 people, an “exponential growth,” he said, to which they did not. were not expecting. To cope with the growing number of patients, the hospital recently reopened two units that were previously closed.
The overwhelming majority of those who arrive sick with Covid are not vaccinated, Segarra said. Many are young – people in their twenties and thirties who become “extremely, extremely sick” and some of them die.
With virus cases on the rise in most of the United States – driven by unvaccinated Americans and fueled by the highly contagious Delta variant – Covid-19 hospitalizations are increasing in other parts of the country as well, and hospitals are falling. again preparing for another round of devastation.
And in Covid hotspots such as Florida and Missouri, where patients quickly fill up Covid units, experts warn that an increase in deaths could soon follow.
Younger, healthier patients are treated
At Texas County Memorial Hospital in Houston, Missouri, hospital chiefs say half of the number of Covid-19 deaths they have seen since the start of this year – eight in total – have occurred during last week.
Just over 23% of the county’s population has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, according to hospital spokesperson Helania Wulff. And the county, now labeled “very high” risk, saw its rate of positivity testing jump from 9.5% last week to over 30% this week, Wulff said.
Lauren Toman, director of respiratory care at the hospital, said that while in previous flares patients tended to be older and have pre-existing conditions, patients are now younger and healthier – but get sicker and get worse faster.
“They decline quickly, very quickly, and even after intubation we will see them decline rapidly and unfortunately we are seeing people go by faster than before,” Toman told CNN.
Not all of the patients she has worked with in recent weeks have been vaccinated, Toman said.
An hour and a half away, Erik Frederick, executive director of Mercy Hospital Springfield, told CNN they were seeing the number of patients accelerate “at an almost unbelievable rate.”
The hospital has grown from 26 Covid-19 patients on June 1 to more than 130 on Saturday – more than ever before, including their winter surge.
“Last year it took us from September 1 to our peak of December 28 to go from 24 to 113 (patients),” Frederick said. “We eclipsed that this year in 39 days. “
There is a “direct line,” he said, between the low vaccination rates the community has seen to the increase in cases and hospitalizations. According to state data, about 40% of Missouri residents are fully immunized, and some of the counties served by the hospital are still below the 20% mark, Frederick said.
Patients there also tend to be younger. About 91% of patients in the intensive care unit are on ventilators, and these include young patients, in their 20s, 30s and 40s, he said.
As Missouri is quickly emerging as a new Covid hotspot, health officials in other parts of the United States are reporting similar patterns. Dr Jeffrey Chapman, chief medical officer at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center in Wyoming, said the increase in the number of Covid-19 patients in the hospital includes a younger population that is predominantly unvaccinated and is ‘deteriorating’ faster.
Virtually all of the cases in the state involved the Delta variant, Mississippi state health official Dr Thomas Dobbs said on Twitter, adding that the “vast majority” of cases, hospitalizations and deaths involved of unvaccinated Americans.
Increased risk for vaccinated Americans too
In Kansas, the University of Kansas health system recorded several days with only two or three Covid-19 patients at the end of May. Now he’s treating more than three dozen patients, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Stites.
More than 80% of new patients are not vaccinated, although others have been vaccinated, he said.
“When you dig into these patients, what you see is that they are all critically ill, chronically ill patients,” he said. “Vaccination is not entirely a ‘Get out of prison without’ card. It improves things a lot, but doesn’t make them go away. “
Experts say that while vaccines are very effective, they are not perfect – and Americans who have been fully vaccinated should still consider levels of transmission and the type of environment they will be in when deciding to whether or not to wear a mask. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people who are immunocompromised or those with chronic illnesses should see their doctor before discarding their masks.
“I’m a little nervous about open society and people who think everything’s okay when it’s not and especially when you’re more chronically ill you still have to keep your mask on,” Stites said.
In Mississippi, Dobbs said on Twitter that 7% of Covid-19 deaths in the state were from people vaccinated, calling the number “worrisome.”
“The only way to stop this monster”
Hospital officials say the latest surge in patient numbers comes as staff are already exhausted and traumatized by a battle with the virus that now lasts more than a year.
In Texas County, Toman said she feared seeing a continued increase, fueled by the July 4th festivities and ongoing summer gatherings, which “will overwhelm every hospital in Missouri.”
“My fear is, can we survive this again?” Can we stay positive, can we all keep our spirits up? ” she said. “We try to be there for each other but we are tired and we are afraid. “
She said that while she understands the hesitations some in the community may have about the vaccine, increasing the number of vaccinations in the state will be “the only way to stop this monster.”
Segarra, in Miami, said he agreed.
“We haven’t made the progress we want in terms of treating Covid, we don’t have that magic bullet in terms of treating Covid, but boy, we’re pretty close to having that magic bullet for the ‘avoiding – and seeing it not being used is very frustrating,’ he said.
The country has failed to meet President Joe Biden’s goal of at least partially vaccinating 70% of American adults by Independence Day earlier this month. More than a week later, about 67.7% of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, and nearly 59% are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
“We are facing a public health situation that goes beyond our personal needs, so we have to be a little more altruistic than selfish,” Segarra said.
“So if you don’t know whether or not you get the vaccine… think of the good you will do for your society, what you will do for your community, because the vaccine not only keeps you from getting sick, it keeps you from passing it on. to others. “