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'Most Of Our Patients Are Unvaccinated.' TMH Reopens COVID Unit As Cases Jump In Leon County

Two gloved hands are seen giving a shot in an arm.
National Cancer Institute
Florida is again a COVID-19 hotspot.

The COVID-19 unit at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital is back open, and it’s as busy now as it was during the height of the pandemic.

“Most of our patients are unvaccinated,” says Dr. Heemanshi Shah, a physician and chair of the medical staff at TMH. “We have age ranges from 20s, 30s, 40s - which we didn't see before.”

The hospital reopened the unit last week when the number of COVID patients reached 15. A week later, that number had more than tripled.

Shah says widespread vaccination is the best tool for stopping the pandemic. Until that happens, she says those who are vaccinated could wind up with breakthrough infections – but the symptoms will be less severe for them. That’s crucial as the extremely contagious Delta variant is impacting young people more than previous variants.

“Younger folks who have no medical issues are coming in with significant severity of illnesses,” Shah says. “A lot of them are in ICUs, which could have been totally avoided if they had just been vaccinated.”

Shah says she talks to people regularly who don’t trust the vaccines because of how quickly they were rolled out. She says she understands their concerns, but “most vaccines are developed that way” and there was urgency in avoiding hospitalizations and deaths.

“All I can say is this is an unvaccinated pandemic,” says Shah. “Just get vaccinated. It’s the best tool that will protect you.”

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.