COVID-19 infections increasing in Bay Area hospitals

COVID-19 infections are trending up in Florida as the contagious delta strain of coronavirus spreads, and Tampa Bay area doctors said they’re seeing more people coming to the hospital with the virus. 

The Florida Department of Health reported 23,747 new cases Friday, up from 16, 031 last week and 11, 804 two weeks ago. Some of the people getting infected landed in the emergency room. 

"The vast majority are not immunized. That's the common theme, and it varies in age groups," said Dr. Doug Ross, the chief medical officer at AdventHealth Tampa. "Inside our hospital, we're seeing an uptick of patients. And across our system, we're seeing an uptick of patients. And that's really concerning for us."

Sarasota Memorial Hospital told FOX13 doctors are also seeing a slight increase in hospitalizations.

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As they treat patients, doctors are learning about the delta strain, and Dr. Ross said AdventHealth’s hospitals in Orlando got some numbers.

"They've actually sent out about a thousand specimens most recently out to get tested for the different variants, and they found the half of them actually were delta or gamma variants, another variant," said Ross. "It's more contagious. They're more contagious. So it's easier to spread the variant, and the variants can be worse in terms of how sick you get."

Vaccines protect you against the virus’ variants. Latest numbers from FDOH show vaccination rates of at least one dose in Tampa Bay ranging from 48 percent in Hernando County to 54 percent in Hillsborough County and 57 percent in Pinellas County. The state also reported vaccinations rates in Tampa Bay as low as 36 percent in Hardee County to as high as 67 percent in Sarasota County.

Doctors shared a message for anyone without the shot.

"I was speaking to one of our emergency room doctors today. She was very passionate about the sense that these people who come in and need hospitalization would avoid the hospitalization had they been immunized. And I concur," said Ross. As the delta strain picks up, Ross added, "I think that should be strong evidence to compel people to become vaccinated."

Dr. Ross said he understands people’s concerns, but he believes the benefits outweigh the risks. 

"I would say to you that if you're not vaccinated, you need to continue to do what we were doing for months, which is really maintaining a mask, maintaining social distancing, not being in large groups and then washing your hands frequently, really just being compulsive about not getting COVID."