TAMPA, Fla. - New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths from COVID-19 are all rising again in Florida, but doctors say the latest surge is different. The patients are younger and this time, it was totally avoidable.
Right now, there are 41 COVID-19 admissions at Tampa General Hospital and 15 ICU beds in use. While there are still beds available, that number is a lot higher than doctors would like, especially because it appears to be increasing by the day.
The work at TGH is nonstop. Doctors and scientists are studying COVID-19 variants and trying to determine how to slow the spread. But for Dr. Jason Wilson, a TGH ER physician, the solution for the public is simple: get vaccinated.
The latest data shows less than 50% of Floridians are fully vaccinated.
"We can't expect magic to happen. Right? If we're going to go out and about as we're getting do, we're going to see these cases continue to go up. The Delta variant is there right now. There will be other variants as well. We got to get that 50% number to start to move quickly," Dr. Wilson said.
Wilson says hospitalizations at TGH are now almost four times higher than they were a month ago and nearly all of them involve unvaccinated patients.
He says only a handful of vaccinated people experience serious COVID symptoms.
"When we do see those cases, the vaccine is doing its job. The job of the vaccines is to keep you from getting sick, from getting hospitalized for COVID or dying from COVID," Wilson said.
Meanwhile, the virus is becoming a concern at some nursing homes, like Freedom Square of Seminole, where dozens of residents died with COVID last year, before the vaccine was available. More recently, seven staff members are recovering from COVID-19.
Two others who were sick are fully recovered
According to executive director Michael Mason, so far, no residents have tested positive.
Dr. Wilson says in many senior care centers residents are vaccinated but a number of employees are not.
"Unfortunately, what's happening is they're basically protecting themselves from their own staff. A lot of times we really need the staff, and all of our health care systems outside of physicians, nurses and other frontline workers, all staff need to be vaccinated if they're going to interact with patients," Wilson said.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is striking a similar tone as COVID infections surge statewide.
"Get the protection beforehand," DeSantis said.
More than 3,000 patients are hospitalized in Florida, a jump of more than 70% since mid-June.
Making matters worse, the number of vaccines administered weekly has fallen by almost 80% since April.
Despite that, the governor believes this is a seasonal spike and he's confident the numbers will decrease again soon.
"As we get into the next month, August, September, I think we'll start to see it go in a different direction," DeSantis said.
The number of hospitalizations had been falling since January when the vaccination program began.
According to the White House, Florida accounts for 20% of all new COVID cases nationally.