• Thu. Sep 23rd, 2021

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Inside a Florida Covid I.C.U., Hopes Fade as Patients Surge In

Now she is armed with hard-earned knowledge from the past 14 months — and vaccinated, as a sticker on her hospital badge boasts. But the virus continues to move into uncharted territory.

“We are scared of seeing what we saw, and this time affecting the younger population,” she said. “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire career.”

Jackson, Florida’s largest public hospital, had 232 Covid-19 patients on Friday, still half the 485 it had on July 27, 2020, its pandemic peak. But a sharp rise in recent hospitalizations prompted administrators to limit visitors and warn that more stringent measures could soon be necessary.

About 61 percent of Miami-Dade County residents are fully vaccinated, higher than the state average of 49 percent. Miami-Dade holds one of the highest vaccination rates among the nation’s large, socially vulnerable counties, those characterized by high poverty rates, crowded housing and poor access to transportation.

But even high vaccine coverage may hide large gaps in immunity — among younger or working people, for example, who are vaccinated at lower rates — that can trigger outbreaks, said Jennifer B. Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Carlos Migoya, Jackson’s chief executive, said the vaccination rate among the hospital’s employees — 60 percent as of Thursday — was too low, a problem plaguing many hospitals, which have started to mandate the shots. At Jackson, 91 percent of third-year resident physicians have been vaccinated but only 37 percent of patient care technicians.

Jackson has also admitted some vaccinated people, but almost all have been transplant patients with compromised immune systems. During last week’s visit by a reporter and photographer from The New York Times, none were in the I.C.U.