16-year-old among most recent COVID-19 deaths at Jacksonville hospitals

1st indication of local deaths from the virus since Florida stopped reporting location data on coronavirus casualties

COVID surge putting strain on hospital beds (WJXT)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Not since early June has the Florida Department of Health provided a breakdown of where resident deaths from COVID-19 occurred. Over the last two months, 2,094 more residents have died with the virus in the state, with no indication where they lived.

On Wednesday afternoon, UF Health Jacksonville broke the silence, telling News4Jax there were four COVID-19 deaths at their two hospitals in June, 37 in July and nine in the first three days of August. Thursday morning, UF Health reported three additional deaths, bringing the total so far this month to 12 -- an average of three each day.

Also Thursday, Baptist Health’s CEO told News4Jax their five hospitals have had 119 deaths since June 21, more than 2½ deaths each day for the last six weeks.

“In fact today, I’m very sad to share that we lost an adolescent in our children’s hospital, 16 years of age, to COVID,” CEO Michael Mayo said. “Very devastating for our staff and the situation.”

The teenager was not vaccinated and had no underlying health issues, the hospital said. Both parents are hospitalized at other area hospitals.

Florida reported 140 new COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, nearly 23% of the deaths reported nationally, according to federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data updated Wednesday.

A News Service of Florida review of the data shows that Florida’s reported death toll Tuesday outpaced any other state, with Louisiana and Texas reporting 59 deaths and 52 deaths, respectively.

“We are starting to see our death rate climb and that’s kind of expected because the mortality rate will lag behind the infection,” said Dr. David Caro, chief operating officer of UF Health. “As far as the end of July to early August, we are starting to see that vertical rise that we saw with the infection rate in the beginning July. The mortality rate isn’t as high as it was in the peak, but I’m also worried that we’ve not seen the end of it because of how fast the infection rate is going up. The number of patients in the ICU are so high that I am worried that we are going to start seeing that come out of that group soon.”

1st indication of local deaths from the virus since Florida stopped reporting location data on coronavirus casualties

The much more contagious delta variant of the coronavirus continues to rage across Florida, sending another 526 people to the hospital and increasing the state’s record-setting total of hospitalizations to 12,888 on Thursday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Thursday’s data show 2,065 adults and 47 children were admitted to hospitals in the state with confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Hospitals statewide and locally have reported numbers of coronavirus patients admitted and in their intensive care units has steadily increased for several weeks. Starting last week, local hospitals reported peaks higher than they saw last summer or winter, when Florida saw its two previous spikes of COVID-19 cases. On Sunday, Mayo Clinic’s hospital notified the state it had exceeded its number of licensed patient beds and was activating its surge capacity plan. On Thursday, Ascension St. Vincent’s said it just surpassed 200% of last year’s peak of COVID-19 patients.

UF Health Jacksonville said Thursday it opened up additional intensive care beds and even moved some patients to a building across the street. They also said the average length of hospitalization of a COVID-19 patient is eight days -- 10 for those in ICU. The average age of its COVID patients is 54.

Staffing is also an issue, as 131 UF Health staff members were quarantined as of Thursday.

“Our hospitals are incredibly busy,” Jacksonville Mayor Curry said Wednesday during a roundtable with Gov. Ron DeSantis and hospital CEOs. “There’s a lot of discussion, a lot of people are afraid and panicking. From my perspective, the solution is to get vaccinated. I’m not suggesting we coerce or force or mandate people to get vaccinated. But we keep working together to educate them that the vaccine is effective, it will keep you out of the hospital and keep you from getting really, really sick.”

News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.