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Pinellas County administrator says daily COVID cases at all-time high as hospitals feel crunch

An ambulance reportedly had to wait three hours to drop off a patient, the administrator said.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The Pinellas County administrator started the Tuesday commission meeting by sharing the impacts COVID-19 has had on local hospitals and impacts to patient care.

The numbers were not especially good. Administrator Barry Burton said daily COVID cases in the county are at an all-time high at 660 cases.

"We're seeing us go from a 2.3 percent positivity to over a 15 percent positivity," Burton said. "And that's not because we're doing less testing and everyone is sick. We're doing more tests now than at the height of the pandemic."

The county is conducting more than 3,200 tests a day. Burton said the spike in cases is lengthening the time it takes to admit a patient to the ER.

"When I have to hear that one of our ambulances had to wait three hours to drop off a patient, that's concerning to me," Burton said. "That may be your loved one."

The delta variant is impacting a younger age demographic, according to local hospital reports. 

"Between 20-35 years old, 40-50 year old," said Lourdes Benedict, the assistant county administrator. "It is not the older population like we first saw."

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The strain on hospitals and health care workers is largely because of unvaccinated people, according to Burton. He said they account for the majority of COVID hospitalizations.

"We're at 60 percent [vaccinations] for 12 and over," Burton said. "Getting that number up to 70 or 80 percent is what our health care professionals say would really help break that cycle."

Pinellas County has several programs in place to share information to encourage people to get vaccinated. Some include local hospitals sharing the stories of hospitalized patients now wishing they were vaccinated.

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