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As COVID Hospitalizations In Duval Rise, Nurse Says ‘Recovered’ Patients Returning

AP File Photo
AP File Photo

The Jacksonville nurse said if the public were able to see hospital internal tracking sheets, it would be helpful.

A Jacksonville nurse says she’s seen an increase in the amount of COVID-19 hospitalizations at her facility, as internal hospital COVID-19 data acquired by WJCT News show an upward trend in Duval County over roughly the past week. 

The nurse spoke with WJCT News on the condition of anonymity out of concern for her job. 

“You'll hear talks about them doing away with these COVID-dedicated units, and then the next thing you know, you come into work, and they're full, and they're talking about possibly opening up another unit to accommodate for COVID,” the nurse said. 

The tracking reports reviewed by WJCT News, which are not publicly available, show that while overall occupancy of Jacksonville intensive care units held steady at around 75%, the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU tripled from 12 to 36 in the week from Oct. 25 to Nov. 1, and the number of patients in need of ventilators doubled from 10 to 20.

The nurse said if the public were able to see the data sheets, it would be helpful.

“If you could see it on paper, maybe more people would think twice before they say this isn’t real, or that it’s not that serious,” she said. 

According to the latest numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Administration, there are currently 152 COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Duval County. That’s a rise from where Jacksonville hovered for most of October, around 130, according to the internal reports. 

The nurse has also seen patients return to the hospital after they’ve gone home and tested negative.

“Their lungs are so scarred that they're still having to come in because they can't breathe,” she said. “I don't feel like we know what the lasting effects of COVID are yet, so it's a problem, a big problem.” 

She also said personal protective equipment is still an issue in the hospitals. Although the situation has gotten better, as new masks are usually available for every shift, as opposed when she had to use the same mask for close to a week, hospitals continue to ration the face coverings. 

Dealing with COVID-19 patients so consistently has been a draining experience, she said. In a matter of one day, she said she had to perform three “terminal weanings”  — taking someone off of life support and giving them drugs to help them relax before they pass away.

“You just feel helpless because there's only so much you can do, but you're still expected to do so much more, and it’s just really hard to go home at the end of the day, especially when you're having to do multiple terminal weanings,” she said. 

“It kind of wears on your brain. It just, it gets to you,” she said. 

Apart from COVID-19, the nurse said she has noticed fewer people are coming in to take care of other health issues because of the pandemic, which several local hospitals have highlighted.  

“People are afraid to come into the hospital until they're practically knocking on death's door,” she said. 

WJCT News filed a public records request with the city to receive more of the COVID-19 hospitalization data sheets. News partner The Florida Times-Union attempted to do the same in March but was denied. 

A city spokeswoman told WJCT News that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry relies on calls with hospital leadership rather than looking at the data sheets to determine how the city is handling the pandemic. 

And despite the recent upticks, this week local hospital leaders told Curry the caseload was manageable, with COVID patients still making up just around 10% of everyone hospitalized. 

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at  @SkylerLebron .
Copyright 2020 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.