Number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients continues to surge
Doctors say many patients are ‘young’ and ‘healthy’ and express regret over not getting vaccine
AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division transitioned to black status, a move that means non-emergency surgeries will be deferred and health care workers will be redeployed to help manage the latest surge as the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients surpassed 1,060 people.
“We have peaked above any previous waves and it is straining our system, physicians and team members,” said Dr. Neil Finkler, chief clinical officer of AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division, at today’s briefing. “None of these patients thought they would get the virus. But the Delta variant has proven to be so highly contagious, that even the young and healthy – including the pregnant – are filling up our hospitals.”
He said more than 90% of COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized are unvaccinated. Those who are fully vaccinated and hospitalized with the virus typically have other comorbidities such as cancer or autoimmune diseases.
Linnette Johnson, a chief nursing officer with AdventHealth Central Florida, said frontline team members are continuing to rise to the challenges brought by this pandemic.
“Whatever we ask of them, they say yes. Because saving your life is more important than their personal comfort,” Johnson said. “I’m here today to tell you: our nurses and physicians are exhausted.
The physical, mental and emotional toll of this pandemic is taking its toll. Yes, they are health care heroes. But our heroes are human.”
Johnson and Finkler both implored everyone in the community to get the vaccine, which is widely available at retail pharmacies, some Centra Care locations and government-run sites. They also recommended people follow the latest CDC guidance to wear masks indoors or in crowds whether you are vaccinated or not.
“We are asking our community to help us,” Johnson said. “Our health system – not just AdventHealth, but all health systems – need this pandemic to end.”
She said nurses are routinely forced to watch patients decline and express regret over their choice to not receive the vaccine.
“We see families shattered by seeing their son or daughter intubated and clinging to life,” she said. “We see the goodbyes. And at that point, it’s too late for them to get a vaccine or wear a mask.”
Finkler said the surge has affected not just young and middle-aged healthy adults, but pregnant women and some pediatric patients. Pediatric cases increased at the start of the week, he said, noting the surge in the cases, including those among children, are being driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. He urged parents to consider having their children wear masks in the classroom when public schools resume in August.
He said it is difficult today to predict how much longer the surge will last. The rate of positive COVID tests at Centra Care, AdventHealth’s urgent care clinics, has served as a predictor of future hospitalizations throughout the pandemic. Centra Care’s positivity rate is at or near its peak of 26%.
“Centra Care’s typically been the canary in the coal mine for us,” Finkler said. “We think we are going to see increased admissions at least for the next week, if not two.”
Black status will remain in effect until at least next week. Non-emergency surgeries will be deferred at hospitals throughout Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake, Polk, Volusia and Flagler counties. Patients will be notified if their procedure will be canceled.
The elevation to black status also means:
- All hospital-based outpatient procedures will be deferred
- Outpatient surgery sites will only conduct time sensitive and urgent procedures
- Time sensitive pediatric procedures can be conducted with approval of the chief medical officer
The doctors urged people in need of a COVID-19 test to avoid the Emergency Rooms unless they are having trouble breathing. COVID tests are readily available at primary care physician offices, Centra Care and government-run sites.