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Florida Covid-19 cases: Staff at a Jacksonville Baptist hospital say they are hearing panic, fear and regret from unvaccinated patients

CNN logo CNN 7/28/2021 By Madeline Holcombe and Randi Kaye, CNN
a group of people preparing food in a kitchen: Healthcare workers at Jacksonville's Baptist Medical Center in Florida. © CNN Healthcare workers at Jacksonville's Baptist Medical Center in Florida.

Health care workers at Jacksonville's Baptist Medical Center in Florida are hearing panic, fear and regret from many of their patients as an increasing number are admitted for Covid-19 complications -- and as many need to be put on ventilators.

"We're getting ready to intubate the patient, which means putting them on a ventilator, and they said, 'If I get the vaccine now, could I not go on the ventilator?' So, they're begging for it," chief nursing officer Tammy Daniel told CNN. "They're desperate because they are gasping for air, they can't breathe, they are scared, they feel like they're going to pass away. "

But by then, they are too late for a vaccine to stop their infection.

Baptist Medical Center has seen its Covid-19 patient numbers multiplying every day, Daniel said. "We can't open up beds fast enough to meet the demand," she said.

Florida is one of the 32 states to see an average number of new cases over the last seven days increase by more than 50% from the week before, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. But it is one of only two states in which every county in the state is listed as having high Covid-19 transmission.

The surge is overwhelming Baptist Medical Center, where 389 patients are being treated for Covid-19 -- an increase of about 50% from a week ago. Of the new patients, 83 are on ventilators, fighting to survive.


Video: Inside a Florida hospital facing a record surge of Covid-19 patients (CNN)

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More than 99% of those patients aren't vaccinated and the average age is around 50, said Michael Mayo, CEO of Baptist Health.

Dr. Michelle Aquino said many of the patients getting very sick are young.

Last week, she admitted a 19-year-old and a 25-year-old for Covid-19, both perfectly healthy before their infections, she said.

"So, you're seeing these healthy people walking around saying I don't need a vaccine, I'm fine if I get Covid I'll be fine and that's not true. With the Delta variant we have really seeing that is not true," Aquino said.

Some patients said they were more concerned about the vaccines than the disease. Now they say they regret not getting the vaccine sooner.

That fear of vaccines is especially frustrating, Aquino said, because there is still no significant, surefire treatment for Covid-19.

"When patients come in, we're very honest with them. We say a lot of it is, we think it'll help, we're not sure it will help, it might help, we hope it helps, but we're not sure and you take it day by day," Aquino said.

Everyone at Baptist Medical Center has lost patients to the virus in the last few weeks, Aquino said, which has been emotionally taxing on the staff who knows most of these deaths could have been avoided.

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