JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Children are among patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Jacksonville, according to doctors and nurses.
At Baptist Health, 230 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday -- 46 more than Friday. Of the COVID-19 patients hospitalized Monday, 42 were in the intensive care unit and nearly 99% were not vaccinated.
At UF Health Jacksonville,117 people were hospitalized as of Monday -- 40 more than Friday. Of the COVID-19 patients hospitalized Monday, 35 were in the ICU.
“We did have some patients die over the weekend,” said Chad Neilsen, UF Health Jacksonville director of accreditation and infection prevention. “We, unfortunately, are going to have to expect that moving forward as well.”
News4Jax has also learned a number of the new patients in the hospitals are children. Hospital staff could not give exact numbers, but Dr. Mobeen Rathore, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with UF Health and Baptist Health systems, said they are filling up beds along with adult patients.
“We are seeing more cases of COVID-19 -- and kids also, just as we are seeing in adults,” Rathore said. “Fortunately, you know, as everybody knows, kids don’t often get that sick, but we are now seeing an uptick in children being admitted to the hospital also with COVID-19.”
Since children under age 12 can’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, Rathore suggests people take special care in not exposing them to people who have not been vaccinated. He calls it cocooning.
“You should demand that everybody around them at their house should be vaccinated. You know, if visitors are going to come to your house, they need to be vaccinated,” Rathore said. “You have to basically cocoon these kids with all the vaccinated people so that they -- because they are not able to get the vaccine -- are protected.”
That could become more of a problem when school begins because teachers are not required to get the vaccine
“Every place is full. All these services are stretched. I think the staff is stress stressed about that,” Rathore said. “You know, we all come to work to do the best we can, but I think as things explode as they are right now, everybody gets affected by that.”
At UF Health Jacksonville, News4Jax spoke with registered nurses Sabrina Oetterer and Lauren Schiller, both of whom work in the COVID-19 wing. They said their work in the past three weeks has become overwhelming.
“It’s very busy is the word I’ll use because we’re still seeing patients change in the snap of a finger. They can be stable and then all of a sudden they’re not. And right now we’re seeing younger patients. Before it was a lot of our older patients 60 and above, and now, unfortunately, this virus is hitting younger people. And it can happen in the blink of an eye. They just change,” Schiller said. “There are people that we take to the ICU every day. There are people that die on our floor.”
Neilsen said he doesn’t see this changing anytime soon.
“I, unfortunately, I think this is going to get worse. We’re seeing cases pour into our hospital at a faster rate. We’re going to have to start looking at delaying elective surgeries and procedures. We’re going to be short on staff very soon because of staff outings due to COVID or just general burnout,” Neilsen said. “I think this is going to get a lot worse in here in the next couple of days.”
Front-line workers said it’s getting extremely hard.
“Even just in a span of a week, we’ve seen it change insanely. It’s just so busy. You don’t have time to really think about how you’re feeling about it,” Oetterer said. “You’re just working from one patient to the next to the next, keeping everybody stable, trying to get them the best care you can give until they can go home and be safe.”
“Every single one of them, if you ask them while they’re in that hospital bed right now, they’re going to say they wish they were vaccinated,” Schiller said. “So it is so incredibly important if you can go get your vaccine.
Both Oetterer and Schiller have been vaccinated, but they know many of their colleagues have not. They said it’s important.
News4Jax asked Neilsen about the politics behind all of this.
“The local government leadership has been very supportive of our hospitals, very in tune to what we need, but it’s undeniable that there is sort of a have and have nots when it comes to vaccination based on political stances,” Neilsen said. “So I’m here to say regardless of politics, regardless of your beliefs, at the hospital, we really need people to start getting vaccinated, start taking masking and social distancing serious again because people are flooding into our hospital and they’re unvaccinated.”
On Wednesday, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry plans to address this issue and urge vaccinations. He has been talking with local health leaders.
News4Jax asked Curry’s office on Monday whether he was considering reinstating the mask mandate and was told no. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday that he does not believe in mandates.