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‘The numbers don’t have to be this bad’: August ends as deadliest month of pandemic in Florida

Published: Sep. 1, 2021 at 4:31 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - August was Florida’s deadliest month in terms of new fatalities due to COVID-19.

It was also the deadliest month for Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare in the pandemic, as the hospital reported 73 COVID-related deaths, more than 10 times the number of reported coronavirus deaths in July.

TMH also saw a record-breaking 141 hospitalizations on Tuesday, the last day of the month. Four people died from the virus Tuesday and on Wednesday, the hospital reported 137 hospitalizations.

Capital Regional Medical Center has 103 hospitalizations, as of Wednesday afternoon.

CRMC does not report data on deaths and the state of Florida is no longer reporting deaths by county, making it hard to determine exact numbers.

But, this is not just about numbers.

Deaths are continuing to take an emotional and physical toll on healthcare workers.

Dr. Daniel Van Durme of Florida State University’s College of Medicine says, for many, it has become unbearable.

Some healthcare staff are opting for early retirement or taking another job in response to the stress, and Dr. Van Durme says the worst part is that so many of these deaths are preventable.

“Quite frankly, that’s the biggest tragedy is the numbers don’t have to be this bad,” Dr. Van Durme said. “Over 90%, over nine out of 10 people that get hospitalized, they’re unvaccinated. Greater than 90% of those that are critically ill, that are dying, are unvaccinated. And so, I understand there are issues of vaccine hesitancy, but the death rate doesn’t have to be this high.”

Van Durme says this spike in hospitalizations and deaths was predictable. Leon County saw a surge of COVID-19 cases in June and July and a spike in cases is typically followed by a spike in deaths a few weeks later.

With Labor Day Weekend approaching and college students returning to campus, Dr. Van Durme says he, unfortunately, expects another surge in cases over the next few weeks.

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