Epidemiologist warns it’s too late for vaccines to halt current COVID-19 wave

8 million Floridians currently eligible for vaccine have yet to get single shot

As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise in Florida, medical providers are limiting their resources from being used elsewhere.

This includes non-emergency surgeries for AdventHealth. The hospital group said it has about 1,000 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, triggering them to issue the “black” status.

Dr. Jason Salemi with the University of South Florida College of Public Health said several health care facilities have no choice but to delay surgeries that include cancer procedures.

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“Some procedures, even though they are capped elective are very important,” Salmi said. “You can have people with very serious conditions not getting the care that they need when hospital systems are overwhelmed and people get this perception that they are overwhelmed, so they delay the care they need and again that’s a dangerous situation.”

Salemi said there are about 8 million Floridians currently eligible for the vaccine who have yet to get a single shot.

“Even if several million went out and got vaccinated today, that’s not going to help us in the short term because it’s going to take, for most of them, five to six weeks before they are fully protected through both doses of the vaccine,” Salemi said.

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As an epidemiologist, Salemi has been collecting COVID-19 hospitalization data across the state. He said in the past five weeks, Florida has gone from 250 new COVID-19 related hospitalizations a day to 1,250 a day.

Salemi said as long as hospitals halt non-emergency surgeries, people with other illnesses may not seek treatment.

“Delaying other primary care or essential care, that’s why we started to see all-cause excess mortality. These indirect deaths associated with the pandemic increase,” Salemi said.

Salemi said people under the age of 50 are more likely to die of COVID-19 outside of a hospital.

About the Author:

Troy graduated from California State University Northridge with a Bachelor's Degree in Communication. He has reported on Mexican drug cartel violence on the El Paso/ Juarez border, nuclear testing facilities at the Idaho National Laboratory and severe Winter weather in Michigan.