More people are catching the coronavirus, being hospitalized, and dying from COVID-19 in Florida than at any time before the pandemic, underscoring the dangers to limit public health measures while the delta variant sweeps the state.
This week, there were 227 daily deaths from the virus reported in Florida, on average, through Tuesday, a record for the state and by far the highest number of deaths in the United States right now.
A student in protective masks walks past a “Welcome Back” banner to a school in North Miami Beach, Florida. Photo REUTERS / Marco Bello.
The median number of new known cases reached 23,314 a day over the weekend, 30% more than the state’s previous peak in January, according to a database of The New York Times.
Across the country, new deaths have risen to more than 1,000 a day, on average.
And hospitalizations in Florida have nearly tripled in the past month, according to federal data, pushing many hospitals to capacity.
The surge has prompted the mayor of Orlando to ask residents to conserve water to limit pressure on the city’s liquid oxygen supply, which is needed both for purify drinking water as to treat COVID-19 patients.
Even as cases continue to rise, with more than 17,200 people hospitalized with the virus throughout Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has stood firm on the vaccine ban and mask mandates.
Several school districts have gone ahead with the mask mandates anyway.
In general, the 52% of Floridians are fully vaccinatedBut the figure is less than 30% in some of the worst-hit counties in the state.
On Monday, dozens of doctors and hospital employees in Palm Beach County gathered for an early morning news conference to supplicate the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, underscoring that the surge was overwhelming the healthcare system and destroying lives.
“We are exhausted,” said Dr. Rupesh Dharia, an internal medicine specialist. “Our patience and resources are wearing thin.”
An increasing proportion of the people flooding hospitals and dying now in Florida come from the youngest segments of the population, particularly those in their 40s and 59s, who were less vulnerable in the early waves of the pandemic.
The delta variant is spreading among the very young, many of whom thought they were healthy and were not vaccinated.
Dr. Chirag Patel, deputy medical director at UF Health Jacksonville, a Northeast Florida hospital system, said patients hospitalized with the virus during this latest wave tend to be younger and have fewer health problems, but almost all do not. are vaccinated.
Of those who have died, including patients between the ages of 20 and 40, more than 90% were not vaccinated, Patel said.
“This time we have had more patients who have passed away at a younger age with little or no medical problems,” he said.
“They just come with COVID and they can’t get out of the hospital“.
Two months ago, the number of COVID-19 patients admitted to the two hospitals in the University of Florida system in Jacksonville was 14.
As of Tuesday morning, there were 188 coronavirus patients in hospitals, including 56 in intensive care units.
One of the hardest parts of your job, Patel said, is having to tell family members that your unvaccinated loved one had succumbed to the virus.
“It’s such an absurd and ultimately avoidable way to die,” he said.
Lisa Waananen, Alison Saldanha and Sarah Cahalan contributed their reports.
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