Young, unvaccinated COVID-19 patients fill up Cameron County hospitals, health officials say
As new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations rise in Cameron County, health officials believe up to 90 percent of cases are the Delta variant.
And just as it has around the country, it's a new population finding themselves in the emergency room.
"The people in the hospitals are younger and thought they were healthy,” said Cameron County Health Authority Dr. James Castillo. “They thought they didn't need the vaccine - and by the way they're almost all unvaccinated."
It’s something that Melanie Garcia, an emergency room nurse at Valley Baptist Harlingen has seen firsthand.
“They didn't believe in the virus a year ago, and then here they are in a hospital bed,” Garcia said during a press conference in Brownsville.
But age is not the only concern for healthcare leaders. Among the unvaccinated finding themselves with a positive COVID-19 test are people working in the healthcare field. Some are working with populations who can't get vaccinated for health reasons.
“The cases I'm seeing right now are from unvaccinated caregivers giving it to their clients who are elderly and bed-bound,” Castillo said. “If you're taking care of an elderly person who's sick, and you're not vaccinated, that is just irresponsible."
Last month, Houston Methodist mandated the vaccine for employees.
It’s an option now being looked at locally.
“The best, quickest way to get there; one strategy is obviously a mandated vaccination policy," said CEO of Valley Baptist Health System Manny Vela. "I can tell you we are discussing that on a daily basis."
With limited staffing as hospitalizations surge, several factors will play a role in making that decision.
But for now, those on the frontlines will work through their emotions.
"Here they are struggling to breathe and non-vaccinated because of their choice, and here we are having to do extra measures just to take care of them,” Garcia said. “So it's a little frustrating. But we're going to do it. We're going to take care of you whether you're vaccinated or not."
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