“I really hoped (everyone) would get vaccinated and everything would go back to normal,” said Sefton, deputy director of Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan.
“We have more patients than we’ve ever had, and we’re seeing more people die at a rate we’ve never seen before,” said Jim Dover, president and CEO of Sparrow Health System.
“Since January, we’ve had about 289 deaths; 75% are unvaccinated people,” Dover said. “And the few (vaccinated people) who died were more than 6 months after receiving the vaccine. Therefore, we have not had a single person who received a booster shot killed by Covid.”
Among the new victims of Covid-19, Sefton said he noticed a disturbing trend.
“We’re seeing a lot of younger people. And I think that’s a bit challenging,” said Sefton, a nurse with 20 years of experience.
She remembers helping a young adult’s family say goodbye to their loved one.
“It was a terrible night,” he said. “That was one of the days that I went home and cried.”
‘We haven’t even peaked yet’
It is not just Michigan that is facing a harsh winter with Covid-19. Nationwide, hospitalizations for Covid-19 are up 40% compared to a month ago, according to data from the US Department of Health and Human Services.
This is the first season of Christmas with the relentless spread of the Delta variant, a strain far more contagious than those faced by Americans last winter.
“We keep talking about how we haven’t peaked yet,” Sefton said.
Sparrow Hospital nurse Danielle Williams said the vast majority of her Covid-19 patients are not vaccinated and had no idea that they could be hit so hard by Covid-19.
“Before they walked in the door, they had a normal life. They were healthy people. They were celebrating Thanksgiving,” Williams said. “And now they are here, with a mask on their face, teary eyes, looking at me, wondering if they are going to live or not.”
‘The next few weeks seem difficult’
Dover said he is saddened but not surprised that his condition is being hit with Covid-19.
“Michigan is not one of the most vaccinated states in the nation. Therefore, it continues to grow and expand variant after variant statewide,” he said.
“The next few weeks look tough. We are over 100% capacity right now,” Dover said.
“Most of the hospitals and healthcare systems in the state of Michigan have moved to code red classification, which means they will not accept transfers. And as we approach the holidays, if the current growth rate in the we are in today, Expect to see 200 Covid inpatients at the end of the month, every day. ”
And that would mean “stretching absolutely to breaking point,” Dover added.
“We have already discontinued elective inpatient surgeries,” he said. “To build capacity, we took our post-anesthetic recovery unit and turned it into another intensive care unit.”
‘There is a lot of frustration’
Nurse Leah Rasch is exhausted. She has worked with Covid-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic and was surprised to see so many still unvaccinated people enter the Covid unit.
“I didn’t think we would be here. I really thought people would be vaccinated,” said the Sparrow Hospital nurse. “I can’t remember the last time we didn’t have a full Covid floor.”
The relentless attack by Covid-19 patients has affected Rasch’s own health.
“There is a lot of frustration,” he said. “The other day, I had my first panic attack … I drove to work and couldn’t get out of the car.”
‘We need everyone to get vaccinated’
Dover said many people have asked how they can support healthcare workers.
“If you really want to support your staff, and you really want to support health care heroes, get vaccinated,” he said. “It is not political. We need everyone to get vaccinated.”
He is also urging even those who have previously had Covid-19 to get vaccinated, as some people can become re-infected.
“My daughter is a good example. She had Covid twice before she was eligible for a vaccine,” said Dover. “She still received a vaccine because we know that if you don’t, just having contracted Covid is not enough to protect you from contracting it again. And I know this from personal experience.”
And Dover said those who aren’t vaccinated shouldn’t let their guard down.
“The problem is, it’s not over yet. I don’t know if people realize how important it is yet,” he said. “But they find out when they get to the emergency room and they have to wait three days for a bed. And at that point, they figure it out.”
CNN’s Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.