A look inside NCH’s critical care unit as COVID cases surge

As new COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Southwest Florida, we take you back inside the ICU at NCH to show us the reality doctors and nurses are facing now.

The pace inside the critical care unit at NCH is fast.

“This is not the COVID that you knew,” said Dr. David Lindner, NCH COVID-19 medical director. “This is not what we have experienced before.”

Lindner slowed things down to walk us through the halls, with rooms that are once again filling up with COVID-19 patients.

“Right now, our COVID each day is doing a staircase up almost by a 10 percent a day,” Lindner explained.

The Delta variant is making its mark in Southwest Florida. At the end of last week, NCH was treating 71 patients for the virus, and 93 percent of those were not vaccinated.

About a dozen of them were in the rooms on the ICU floor.

Lindner, when questioned if it should be alarming to people, he said, “For those who are not vaccinated, yes.”

The red lights outside the rooms still mean the same thing – they’re treating a COVID-19 patient. But they are seeing differences in the virus compared to last year.

“It’s faster; it’s more aggressive. We have more people on ECMO, which is a heart and lung machine, than I did at the same time last year with more patients,” he added.

Doctors used the machine on one COVID-19 patient in the short time we were on the floor.

Dr. Lindner explained just how contagious the delta variant is; “Last year if you had COVID, the likelihood was that you would infect about two individuals. Right now, the data out of Great Britain is showing that if you have COVID, you’re going to infect about six.”

He says getting vaccinated is the most effective way to slow down the spread of the virus. “Until we get to the point where COVID does not have the ability to continue to mutate, find susceptible individuals and infect them, basically until that time comes, this is not going to end.”

It’s a race to the finish line, to one day hopefully beat COVID-19.

Lindner says people who choose not to get vaccinated still need to social distance and use good health habits like washing their hands.

He says researchers are now saying about 85 percent of people would need to get vaccinated to reach herd immunity with the Delta variant.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
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