CNN | 9/20/2021 | Listen

Staff at one Florida hospital figured they had seen the worst of Covid-19. They may be proven wrong

By Leyla Santiago, Sara Weisfeldt and Madeline Holcombe, CNN

Updated: Tue, 20 Jul 2021 22:11:48 GMT

Source: CNN

Staff at the University of Florida Health Jacksonville figured they had seen the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's sad and frustrating because we thought that we were toward the end of it," nurse Lauren Schiller told CNN. "And within not even two days, we're back to being just like it was in December, January, which is crazy."

The number of Covid-19 cases at UF Health Jacksonville has doubled since last week. And there are fears that staffing won't soon be able to keep up with the influx of patients.

"I would say we are days away from running at capacity and really having significant staffing issues," the director of infection prevention Chad Neilsen told CNN.

Florida is among the leaders when it comes to new coronavirus cases. "In fact, just four states accounted for more than 40% of all cases in the past week, with one in five cases occurring in Florida alone," White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said Friday.

And with the national average of new daily cases this week up 66% from last week and 145% from two weeks ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, health experts worry that with only around 47.8% of the state fully vaccinated, it will not be enough to keep the situation from getting worse.

Nielsen said 90% of the UF Health Jacksonville Covid-19 patients are not vaccinated.

"We could be an entire hospital full of Covid in a matter of a month if things don't begin to slow down or vaccinations don't increase," Neilsen said. "We need policymakers at a higher level though to really listen to us. Start doubling down on vaccinations pushes, stop with disinformation campaigns on social media. And really start helping the health care community because we are starting to reach a breaking point across the state."

Though he has encouraged vaccination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has ruled out the possibility of another lockdown and said the current situation is a similar pattern to what the state has seen before.

But Neilsen said this time is different because of the more transmissible Delta variant.

It doesn't help that about half of the hospital's staff is unvacinated, he said. Many are getting sick, and others are suffering burnout.

"My greatest fear is that patients continue to pour in, and we are unable to give them the care that we need because we don't have staff or resources," Neilsen said. "Staffing shortages are really starting to affect not only us but the rest of the hospital community here in Jacksonville, and if we don't have staff to take care of patients that's when we are going to have real problems."

After the winter surge in January, the hospital lost a lot of nurses, clinicians and doctors who no longer wanted to work in hospitals, Neilsen said.

Meanwhile, Debra Wells is one of 32 Covid positive patients in her unit, and she said before she came into the Jacksonville hospital, she thought she was going to die.

From her hospital bed, she pleaded for others to get the vaccine.

"It's the worst sickness you'll ever have in your life," she said. "You want to get vaccinated. You don't want nobody to have this."


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