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Overwhelmed South Florida Hospitals Seeing Younger COVID Patients

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Florida continues to be the epicenter of the COVID-19 surge, with the state breaking a single-day record and the surge has been hectic in hospitals.

Since the start of the pandemic, 22,783 new cases were reported on Thursday, along with 199 deaths, according to the CDC.

"I don't think there is ever a time in my life in my career that I have seen anything like this. This surge was intense over the last 18 months, but nothing like what are seeing now," said Chief Executive Officer of Broward Health Medical Center Heather Havericak.

Havericak said their hospital is overwhelmed, as they keep seeing younger and younger patients with the virus.

"We have had to bring in many travel nurses, and agency nurses just to help support our staff that are here. The staff that is here are just exhausted, frustrated. They have been doing this now for 18 months."

And across South Florida, there is a shortage of nurses.

This is a look inside of the COVID Intensive Care Unit at Jackson Memorial Hospital and it is busy.

"There's a need for doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists," said COVID ICU nurse Osvaldo Piniero.

"We need everyone we can for the nursing. The more staff we get, the more hands and eyes we can the better it is for the patients."

Dr. Yoram Gutfreund, an ER doctor at Jackson Memorial Hospital says the sick patients intubated are of younger ages.

"The ICU admissions over the last week are 19-year-olds, twenty, 33-year-olds who are very sick. And almost every patient who is very sick, they all share in common that they are unvaccinated."

"The death rate will unfortunately increase," said Dr. Gutfreund.

But he says people still on the fence about getting a vaccine should be alarmed of COVID after effects.

"People think the death rate is x and that is it. Spending 3 weeks in the intensive care unit, and almost dying and having chronic lung disease and heart disease, which other people may view as oh a positive case that did not die is a success. It is absolutely not a success. Many people develop chronic diseases. So prevent it by getting a vaccine or early treatment."

During a roundtable discussion this week with the governor, CEO Carlos Migoya said nurses were leaving for higher-paying jobs and said efforts are being stepped up to recruit from nursing schools and other areas.

But the majority of the patients in ICU, are those who are not vaccinated.

A new study shows that even people who are recovered from the virus are urged to get vaccinated. The study showed those who ignored that advice had twice the risk of getting infected as those who are not vaccinated.

Research has also shown getting the vaccine gives you a boost to natural immunity, including protection against new mutants.

"Until the community gets the vaccine, we will not be able to move from this crisis," said Havericak.

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