As students return to school, Jacksonville hospital staff expect another COVID-19 surge

UF Health Jacksonville puts up tent outside ER to handle expected overflow, provide space to triage patients

As students begin to return to school, staff at local hospitals are expecting another surge in COVID-19 cases.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As students begin to return to school, staff at local hospitals are expecting another surge in COVID-19 cases.

Dr. David Caro, an emergency room physician at UF Health Jacksonville, told News4Jax on Monday that cases continue to rise in North Florida but not as sharply as in the past week. He said schools could change that.

“We still might be in for another rise, another peak, especially once the schools open and we start seeing more people interacting on a daily basis,” Caro said.

Doctors and hospital staff told News4Jax that emergency rooms across Jacksonville are slammed. At UF Health, doctors and staff are preparing for the worst.

“We are at the seams. We are pushing up against our limits,” Caro said. “All of our ICUs are filled with patients. We have expanded into unused parts of the hospital to take care of COVID patients.”

For example, UF Health has put up a tent outside the emergency room at its location in the downtown area to handle an expected overflow and provide a space to triage patients.

“You’re are also seeing us expand our emergency services into areas that we typically don’t have to do an expansion into,” Caro said. “We are using observation space to do emergency care, converting waiting room space into potential treatment rooms.”

With Duval County schools opening this week, Caro said, the hospital is bracing for more cases. He said staffing is already a problem. Nurses and doctors are working nonstop, but there does not appear to be any relief for them because of a staff shortage.

There is also a grim statistic. At UF Health, since Aug. 1, 20 people have died in nine days. Other hospitals are not releasing that information on a regular basis, but as of last week, 119 people had died at Baptist Health’s hospitals since June 21, including a 16-year-old.

And while over 90% of those hospitalized are not vaccinated, there are also some who were vaccinated, but Caro said those people are faring much better.

“We have seen a few that have died even though they have been vaccinated,” he said. “But those folks are usually much older and/or had a number of comorbidities that made them at high risk.”

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