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COVID Hospitalizations Triple In South Florida Since Beginning Of July

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Jackson Health System is sounding the alarm about what they are seeing in their hospitals.

In just two weeks, COVID-19 has caused an influx of patients. These patients, doctors say, are otherwise young and healthy, but are also unvaccinated.

Jackson Health System updated their COVID threat level to "high" once again.

That means they are not allowing visitors in adult emergency departments and most inpatient units.

CEO Carlos Migoya says that is after a 117% increase in COVID patients in a matter of 14 days.

They went from having 66 on July 6, to having 143 on July 20.

"90% of what we are seeing hospitalized are unvaccinated," says Dr. Lilian Abbo, an Infectious Disease Specialist at Jackson. "95% of the people we have in the ICU, critically ill, are unvaccinated. I reiterate the message that vaccines work, and the people that are vaccinated have antibodies that are protecting us from being critically ill, intubating and dying. That is the difference now and year ago."

Dr. Abbo points out these patients are not those who have co-morbidities or are elderly, and the long-term consequences can be dire.

"We are seeing younger people, in their 20's or 30's, not many risk factors— not obese, not diabetic— coming in and very sick," she says. "Some of them requiring potential lung transplants. So I really encourage everyone, young and old, to get vaccinated. This is no longer the disease of the very elderly or the nursing homes, this is affecting everyone regardless of race or age."

Migoya says while 75% of the county has had at least one dose, the remaining portion of the population of those 12 and older, which equated to about 500,000 people, are unvaccinated.

"What we see are younger people getting sick, and the only real change we can have is Regeneron-- better known as monoclonal antibodies," says Migoya. "But that can only be given to certain criteria, and most young people that are healthy will not qualify for that. Therefore, the only battle that they can do against this virus is to get vaccinated."

"It's looking like it's just taking off again, and that's sad to go through all of this all again," says R.N. Martha Baker, who is President of the Service Employees International Union representing Jackson workers. "What a shame for the loss of life end and the stress on the caregivers inside the hospital. They're tired. They're tired from round one."

"Staffing is short, she continues. "Our hospitals are full. It's not like they're empty now. It's stressing all the hospitals in Dade County, and probably across this country."

At Memorial Healthcare System, the number of COVID patients nearly tripled in a month, going from 94 to 234 people. Most of them are also unvaccinated.

Memorial started limiting inpatient visits last week and say they may implement further restrictions.

Doctors are partly attributing the increase to the Delta variant.

"80 to 90 percent of the country now has Delta variant," says Dr. Abbo. "What we are seeing on the frontlines, is, very rapidly, the spreading of the disease. People will tell me they had dinner together on Thursday, and already on Sunday, they are having symptoms. The incubation period is much shorter. It's not 10 to 14 days, like we were seeing before. Now, we are seeing people getting in close contact and, within a few days, they're already symptomatic and very infectious."

The visitation restrictions go into effect at Jackson on Wednesday.

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