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TGH emergency room doctor: 'If you don't have a vaccine, you're going to get COVID.'

The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Florida is bringing vaccine and mask discussions back to the forefront.

TAMPA, Fla. — "Here's the bottom line, if you don't have a vaccine, you're going to get COVID."

That's the warning Dr. Jason Wilson from Tampa General Hospital and USF Health gave to the public during a discussion about the virus with Mayor Jane Castor. 

The chat was posted to the mayor and City of Tampa's Facebook pages Wednesday as COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to surge.

"We don’t want to see anyone get sick with COVID and end up on a respirator or worse. Please, please get vaccinated. Your life could depend on it," Castor wrote on her post. 

According to Wilson, who is an emergency room doctor, he feels as if he is having deja-vu from the height of the pandemic last year.

"Hospitalizations have really gone up in the last week and a half to two weeks," he said. "What we're really seeing right now is people who are much younger —   people who are in their 40s make up our hospitalizations."

RELATED: CDC reverses course on indoor masks in parts of US where COVID is surging

The "rapid" shift in those being hospitalized can be tied to the vaccination status of those Wilson says he is seeing enter his emergency room.

"The risk factor for getting this is not having a vaccine. That is the co-morbidity, is not being vaccinated," he said, adding that the majority of the 80 people the hospital system is treating for the virus have yet to get a shot.

Wilson says those hospitalized with COVID are also needing more intensive care. 

"Our vaccinated patients are definitely getting some protection either against getting COVID, against getting hospitalized from COVID, or then getting seriously ill even if they are hospitalized from COVID," Wilson explained.

Variants of the virus are only getting more infectious, according to Wilson. It's a sentiment the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appears to agree with after health officials said the delta variant is to blame for an estimated 83-percent of U.S. COVID-19 cases.

RELATED: Tampa Bay area could see huge spike in COVID-19 cases if vaccination rates remain low, scientist says

So what do we do now? 

"Well, I think the bottom line is the vaccine is safe. You have a responsibility to get a vaccine, not only for yourself but for your family and the rest of the community," Castor said.

Wilson says the best way to protect yourself from contracting the coronavirus remains to be by wearing a mask — even if you are fully vaccinated.

"Most of us own masks now, we have masks and they're highly effective. So, don't forget, you can always wear, have your kid wear a mask, or you can wear a mask," he said.

Not masking up can also impact health care workers who have already had an incredibly long year. 

They will be the ones who have to take care of anyone affected by the surge, along with their normal amount of day-to-day patients. That means whether you’re in the emergency room with COVID-19 or something else, a surge just stretches those resources and puts more pressure on our healthcare workers. 

“What I was doing this time last summer, I’m essentially doing the same thing,” Wilson said. “So we’re kind of in the same spot we were in a year ago.”

A report published by researchers at Ghent University says approximately one in three physicians is experiencing burnout at any given time. That report says burnout may not only interfere with the well-being of the healthcare worker but also with the quality of delivered care.

The CDC on Tuesday reversed course on previous face-covering guidance, recommending that fully vaccinated people who live in areas where COVID-19 cases are surging to once again mask up indoors.

RELATED: Who needs to mask up in Florida? Pretty much everyone, per CDC guidance

For Florida, that would mean nearly everyone would need to mask up. A CDC coronavirus transmission map has the entire state covered in red, meaning that Floridians are seeing high transmission rates.

"High transmission," according to the map, refers to areas with more than 100 cases of the virus per 100,000 people or where the past seven days of new tests show a greater than 10-percent positivity.

Visit the Florida Department of Health's website to find a vaccine location near you.

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