“Don't let us be your nurse”: Florida health care worker describes the Florida surge

This week, Florida shattered its records for COVID-19 hospitalizations, as the state fights a new surge of cases driven by the highly contagious Delta variant. Admissions have grown tenfold statewide in just over a month, and hospitals throughout the state are again facing an overwhelming demand, with their COVID-19 wards filling after nearly emptying in June. Alix Zacharski, a nurse manager of a COVID-19 intensive care unit at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital, discussed the hospital's current experience of COVID-19 with Yahoo News.

Video Transcript

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A;IX ZACHARSKI: My name is Alix Zacharski. I'm the nurse manager for the medical intensive care unit here at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. What we are seeing now in our local hospitals is right now, our numbers have gone up in hospitalizations. And what is different from the last previous pandemic is that patients are coming much, much younger in 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s compared to the 60s, 70s, and 80s that we have had for the last year. That's one.

Second is a great majority of them are unvaccinated. Three patients are actually coming up with no preconditions as well. So that's scary because these patients are not-- well, should not have been at risk really. And then here they are. They were unvaccinated. That tells us that this virus is very aggressive.

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In my CU, I've been treating COVID patients since the day one. My CU has been expanded from 8 beds up to 37 at one point. And then it went back down to eight beds. It just expanded last Friday, July 30th from 8 beds to 24 beds. So it just triplicated right away. I would not be surprised if I had to expand even more so in the next two weeks if we hit a peak because the numbers are rising up pretty quickly.

They come very sick already. They come with the respiratory issues. They just can't seem to be catching their breath. It's pretty much what is the major commonality. So the onset of symptoms no longer follows the 4 to 5 to 14 days incubation period, I call it. So it's more like within five days of, they're just really sick. And then they show up to the ER really, really ill. They're requiring more oxygenation.

They don't stay longer. Trying to hold on to the low oxygenation. Then they are rapidly progressing to having to get intubated. I want you to all realize that treating COVID patients is a big thing. When we are treating all these patients, we're focusing all our efforts in this.

We're actually neglecting-- in a certain way, we are actually unable to see other patients that are having the issues in the hospitals. Not just in this hospital, in many other hospitals. It makes the healthcare systems to be so overwhelmed and very paralyzed in other areas of it, to be able to treat other patients unfortunately.

There's not a surplus of multiple beds, or multiple interventions, and multiple equipment to be able to treat everyone at all the time. So this is a big impact that we place and a big burden that we place on all the parts of the health care system.

It is absolutely exhausting. We are very frustrated, to be honest, because we are as anyone else are people. We want to go back to our lives. When we go back to the hospital every day, we wear two masks. We are wearing the N95 masks. And then on top of that, we wear this other mask. This is the surgical mask.

And to top it off, we wear the eye shield. When you work 3 or 4 days in an ICU or any floor for that matter who takes care of COVID patients is exhausting, is physically exhausting, and emotionally draining. First of all, I recommend you please vaccinate. If you're Unvaccinated, I recommend you to vaccinate. Consider it seriously as we have seen very young people dying.

And really, it's not worth it going through what I have seen. And I have to say goodbye to young people. Last Friday, we lost a 27-year-old and a 54-year-old side by side that were extremely ill. And it's very sad to see. Four weeks ago, we lost a 24-year-old who left a four-year-old child with her mom and with her grandparents.

And so it's very difficult to see the situations. And it's not just one time, it's multiple times. I'm just giving you a brief example of things that we see. I will just tell you, help us to help you. Don't let us be your nurse at this time.

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