Saint Francis officials said in a Monday update their COVID hospitalizations are nearing their early winter record.
The hospital reported 282 COVID patients Monday, including nine children. That represents about 25% of staffed beds across all inpatient facilities. The winter peak was 309 COVID patients.
Acute Care Nursing Director Christy Pisarra said things feel different this time because of a lack of community support. She said nurses and doctors leave the hospital after their demanding shifts and see people have largely moved on from the pandemic.
"My fear, personally, is that there's not an ice storm coming our way in the next two weeks that's going to cause our community to essentially go into their homes and not spread. I by no means am asking to close down. I'm just saying I don't know how we will — without masking and increased vaccination rates — get out of this," Pisarra said.
While effective vaccines have become widely available since hospitalizations hit their winter peak, Saint Francis officials said 91% of current patients are unvaccinated. Pisarra said the Delta variant is sending younger patients to the hospital — people in their 50s, 40s, 30s, even 20s — and it seems to move faster.
"So, a patient can start out just needing oxygen at the beginning of the shift and by the end of shift can be on what we call high-flow oxygen, requiring a lot of support, and possibly be on a ventilator by the next day. So, the speed and the progression at which these patients have struggled is actually very shocking and sad. Hard," Pisarra said.
Saint Francis is also short more than 150 workers, many of whom have tested positive for COVID. About one in three currently out are fully vaccinated.