As the COVID-19 crisis continues to worsen across much of the South, hospital staff in Florida are growing weary and they say their patients are coming in younger and sicker than at any previous time during the pandemic.
"The patients that we are seeing now are actually much younger than what we used to see in the initial [COVID-19] wave in January and February. The patients are much sicker," Dr. Hiren Mehta, a critical care physician at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, Florida, told ABC News.
"They're staying on a ventilator longer, and they are in the intensive care unit for a much longer duration," he added.
Jeremy Lusong, a nurse at the same hospital, told ABC News that she'd become frustrated because the majority of her patients hadn't been vaccinated.
"We've been getting more sicker patients [with] COVID cases," said Lusong. "There is a vaccine that the government has made available for the community to get, but it looks like there are a couple of people who are still undecided about it and now we're seeing those cases."
Lusong said the strain has made her mentally and emotionally drained.
"It's just a matter of time that you might get [the virus] if you don't protect yourself. You have other options, if you don't like the vaccine. ... Please avoid the public," she said. "We should all be socially responsible for each other."
According to a weekly state report, Florida reported 134,506 new cases in the past week. As of Wednesday, nearly 60% of the population has had at least one dose of the vaccine and 49% of the state is fully vaccinated.
Ian Woods, 38, has been a COVID-19 patient at UF Health Shands Hospital for more than a week. He said he regretted waiting on the vaccine.
"I would say don't be afraid to get it; just go ahead and get it. It's worth it. I mean, I wish I'd gotten it," said Woods. "I probably wouldn't have wound up in the hospital like this."