Younger, unvaccinated COVID-19 patients filling Bay Area hospitals

Numbers released Tuesday by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) show Florida COVID-19 hospitalizations are higher than last year’s record, before the vaccine was even developed. 

"We didn’t have a solution [last year]," Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton said at a commission meeting Tuesday morning. "We have a solution now. So we’re not talking about mandates, we’re talking about taking the solution and trying to curb the spread of this."

At Tampa General Hospital, 90% of COVID-19 designated beds are currently occupied, including 51 in the COVID ICU. BayCare Health says its number of COVID patients has quadrupled over the last four weeks. And at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, there are 131 COVID patients, up from 115 on Friday; 29 of those are in the ICU.

Candice Cordero, a nurse at Bradenton’s Blake Medical Center, says the surge came on suddenly.

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"It’s a big increase all of a sudden," she said. "The last day that I worked we had 27 COVID patients in the hospital, where the last couple of months we had maybe three or less."

Another difference this time around is the age of patients coming to hospitals. On Monday, Mary Mayhew, the president and CEO of the Florida Hospital Association, said 50% of the people hospitalized in Florida were between ages 25 and 55. 

"It’s hard for people, the nurses that are working, to take care of people close to their own age that are really sick with this," Cordero said.

RELATED: Florida's COVID-19 hospitalizations reach all-time high of 11,515 patients

And the majority of hospitalizations are unvaccinated.

In a meeting Tuesday morning, Pinellas County leaders discussed vaccination rates.

"Ages 12 and up, we’re at 63.9%, as of this morning’s call," said Assistant County Administrator Lourdes Benedict. "Ages 65 and up, we’re at 85.5% with at least one vaccine."

A vaccine that still has some wary, but Cordero puts it this way: "It’s like a life vest, it’s not going to keep you from falling off the boat, but it’s going to keep you from drowning."