Florida hospitals are seeing more younger coronavirus patients, but then quickly releasing them back into the population where they could infect others.
Younger patients are accounting for an increasing share of COVID-19 patients, but their symptoms are more likely to be mild, and health experts are concerned they'll spread the potentially deadly virus if they choose not to quarantine, reported The Daily Beast.
“We know from the data that the cases are trending younger and we have a pretty good idea that it is related to the behavior of young folks going out to bars and house parties,” said Cindy Prins, a University of Florida epidemiology professor. “We tend to take more risks and live in the moment when we are younger. They may believe they are not at risk of being hospitalized, but they do pose a risk to others.”
One nurse from Cleveland Clinic reported a dramatic difference in coronavirus patients since the state officially reopened, saying they saw few COVID-19 patients during Florida's scattershot lockdown but nearly a dozen per day.
“Now, it’s about 10 a day,” said the nurse, who asked to remain anonymous. “I had seven the last night I worked. All the ones I’ve treated are in their mid-20s to early-50s.”
The hospital, however, said its Weston location saw about three COVID-19 patients a day and only 20 percent of those admitted were under 40, but even Gov. Ron DeSantis is blaming the state's rising case numbers on younger patients.
“They’re younger people," DeSantis said. "They’re going to do what they’re going to do."
Intensive care units in Miami-Dade area hospitals are 70 percent capacity, and patients were coming in Monday faster than they were being discharged, according to the county, and some hospitals are nearing maximum capacity.
“We are still at capacity with people waiting for beds,” said a Homestead Hospital nurse who asked to remain anonymous. “Most of the people receiving a COVID-positive diagnosis are completely asymptomatic.”
The hospital declined to comment on the nurse's claims, but those observations were matched by claims made by a paramedic who works at nearby Aventura Hospital.
“A few of them needed ventilators, but most of them are stable,” said the paramedic. “We’re seeing a lot of 18-35 year olds getting it. Two of my co-workers are actually out sick now cause they got it … nothing severe, but they have to stay home until they’re negative.”
The Daily Beast spoke to two patients under 40 who have experienced symptoms but felt well enough to venture out in public.
“I was getting absurdly tired at work,” said Karlie McCutcheson, a 23-year-old from Jacksonville. “Even my bosses noticed it. But it wasn’t until Friday night that I really believed I had caught COVID.”
Her employer shut down the office afterward and other employees must get tested, and McCutcheson believes she spread the virus to her father and brother after catching it from her boyfriend a few weeks ago.
“In Jacksonville, it was like COVID was no longer a big deal,” she said. “Everyone had gone back to living their normal lives.”
A 38-year-old from Pembroke Pines said he felt safe enough to go out for food and drinks with friends last week, after the state reopened last month.
“I wouldn’t say I felt safer, but I had started venturing out again a little bit,” Jordan Rodriguez said. “I still wear a face mask whenever I go out and I have always been a germaphobe, so I’m regularly washing my hands with soap.”
But he still tested positive for the virus after running a fever the day after his restaurant outing.
“Since that day, I’ve felt no symptoms," he said. "I check my temperature regularly and it hasn’t gone up. But I’ve been quarantined in my bedroom.”
“It sucks,” Rodriguez added. “I’ve just been sitting here reading books, watching YouTube videos and binging on all kinds of TV shows. But I don’t want to be responsible for giving it to anybody.”