Delta variant surge taking mental, physical toll on hospital staff

The COVID-19 delta variant is more aggressive, more transmissible and health experts say, as numbers continue to climb at an alarming rate.

Elizabeth Larkins, Executive Director of Medical Nursing Services at Northeast Georgia Health System, led the media on a tour of Northeast Georgia Medical Center's COVID ICU unit Monday in Gainesville.

 "When I got here this morning we had five critically ill patients waiting for a room and nowhere to put them," said Larkins. 

The medical team held the event to give the public a behind-the-scenes look at the daily challenges facing medical staff during, what is for them, another critical point in this pandemic.

Northeast Georgia Health System CEO Carroll Burrell said as of Monday morning they had 287 COVID-positive patients in their facilities, that's more than they have had since January earlier this year. She said 84 percent of those patients are unvaccinated

"Looking at our critical care, in those units, 95 to 100 percent of those patients are unvaccinated," she said.

Experts say children and young adults are more susceptible to it than the previous strain. 

RELATED: DPH says half of Georgia's recent COVID-19 outbreaks traced to schools

Chief of Medical Staff for Northeast Georgia Medical Center Dr. Deepak Aggarwal said, "So that just tells you that the vaccination is the key to really prevent hospitalization and prevent severe illness."

Advanced Practice Provider Briana Juskowiak told FOX 5's Deidra Dukes, "I think the most frustrating thing about this current wave is now we have a solution. We have something in place that we know works to prevent this level of spread of the disease."

Juskowiak and her medical colleagues say the ongoing pandemic, and the recent spike in cases is taking a physical and emotional toll on the men and women in the nation's hospitals. They're speaking out in hopes of convincing the unvaccinated to get vaccinated, as numbers continue to climb at an alarming rate. 

 "We are trying to encourage people to use the vaccine," Juskowiak said, "because it is the only known treatment that we have, the only thing, prevention at this point in time."

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