Some Florida hospitals are now reporting the highest number of COVID-19 patients since the pandemic first started, according to The New York Times.
Two of the hospitals — University of Florida facilities in Jacksonville — had 14 COVID-19 patients a month ago. The number now stands at more than 140 people at the hospitals.
Most of the patients admitted in Jacksonville and other medical facilities in areas around the U.S. are those who have not been vaccinated, according to the report.
Debra Wells, 65, was one of those admitted to one of the Jacksonville hospitals earlier this month when what she thought was a cold grew into something worse.
''I said, 'Lord, I feel like I'm dying,''' said Wells, who was not vaccinated.
''I was misinformed,'' said Wells after a five-day hospital stay. ''I wasn't ready (for the vaccine), and I was scared.''
The Times noted that hospitalizations on a national level remain relatively low. But in certain pockets where vaccination levels are low the delta variant has left intensive care units and COVID-19 wards overflowing.
At the two hospitals in Jacksonville, the number of COVID-19 patients is higher than last summer, when the coronavirus hit Florida, according to the Times. And it is higher than over the winter, when the virus surged to devastating levels across the nation.
''It's very frustrating,'' said Dr. Leon L. Haley Jr., the chief executive of UF Health Jacksonville. ''Each day we continue to go up. There's no sense of when things are going to curtail themselves. People are stretched thin.''
The Times noted the areas with low vaccination rates and increase in virus cases include Northwest Florida, Southwest Missouri and Southern Alabama.
And the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville is on track to match or exceed its earlier record. In addition, Wolfson Children's Hospital recorded its second-highest number of admissions, 45, after reaching 57 in January, the Times said.
In Daytona Beach, Florida, one AdventHealth hospital has more COVID-19 patients than ever. In the AdventHealth system in Central Florida, the COVID-19 patient load grew from 430 to 720 over the past week.
The Times' data shows that hospitalizations have increased in 45 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico over the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Wednesday defended the right not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, though he stressed that "people should get vaccinated" as delta variant case numbers rise in his home state.
Rubio said on CBS ''This Morning'' that "at the end of the day, it's up to people to make that decision," whether to get vaccinated.
He added that "the government, in a free society such as ours, there's only so much that they can do. They can provide information. We can debunk things that aren't true. We can provide access. It's ultimately up to people individually to make that decision."
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