JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As of Thursday, Baptist Health had 569 patients that are positive with COVID-19 admitted in its facilities, according to the hospital’s CEO, Michael Mayo.
“We have seen a monumental increase over the last four to six weeks in our patient population,” Mayo told News4Jax.
Since June 21, Mayo said, Baptist has seen 119 patient deaths in its facilities due to COVID-19.
“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,” Mayo said. “Very devastating for our staff and for the situation.”
According to the CEO, the teenager had no underlying conditions and was not vaccinated. Mayo said the teen’s parents are also at Jacksonville-area hospitals receiving treatment, presumably for COVID.
Mayo said the increase in the patient population at Baptist’s health facilities are of patients at a “young age.” He said they’re averaging below age 51 and that a staggering 98% of those patients admitted with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated.
“(Our) concern right now is for our community to be aware of the fact that getting vaccinated is one of your best protections to help you deal with avoiding this virus, or if you do get the virus and you will be able to withstand it much better,” Mayo said.
A Wednesday email from Wolfson Children’s Hospital showed 16 of its patients were being treated for COVID. Of those patients, four were in intensive care.
Dr. Sunil Joshi, a Jacksonville immunologist who retweeted a News4Jax story that reported the 16-year-old’s death, wrote:
“Just absolutely sad for everyone involved. We have to get past the inaccurate and overplayed assertion that COVID is insignificant in children. That is simply not true, in particular with the delta variant.”
Dr. Adriana Cantville, a pediatrician, has seen firsthand the uptick in child COVID cases.
“I have taken care of a baby as young as 2 weeks old and I’ve had to actually wheel down parents myself to the emergency room who were so sick with COVID themselves and so heartbroken to leave their child in our care to go take care of themselves because they were too sick,” Cantville said.
RIght now, the only vaccine available to children 12 and up is the Pfizer shot.
Kristy Weaver lives in St. Marys, Georgia. Her 10-year-old daughter is immunocompromised and tested positive for COVID.
Her daughter was too young to get a shot. She’s had fever, chills, body aches and a soar throat, Weaver said.
Weaver, her husband and 19-year-old son have not tested positive. Each have been vaccinated.
“I’ve seen too many people dying from it and getting really sick and we didn’t want to take any chances,” Weaver said.
Cantville says the vaccines are safe and effective for children. She encourages parents who have concerns to talk to their pediatricians about it.
Mayo said Baptist Health is continuing its push to get more people vaccinated in the Jacksonville community, including its own employees, as the city remains a COVID hotspot.
“The problem is that if you look at the percentage of patients that have been diagnosed and compare to the overall population and multiply that across the state of Florida, it seems very small, but in the pockets of where this virus is taking hold in such a strong way, such as in Northeast Florida, it is very serious, and we need to treat it as such,” he said.
A key concern of Baptist Health, Mayo said, is having enough hospital beds to provide patient care and ensuring there are enough staff members to help. He said some elective surgeries have been postponed in order to shift team members from surgery centers to another location.
“We even have launched the campaign with all staff, asking for extra helping hands. This is for anyone, clinical or not, and volunteer two, four, six hours of their time after their normal shift to go and help out, passing trays, and passing out linens, assisting with people having difficulties in the waiting room,” Mayo said. “And our team members have all responded to that in a very strong way and so we’re helping each other through this crisis.”