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Wake Forest Baptist ICU doctor seeing more unvaccinated people hospitalized

COVID-19 hospitalizations are ticking back up but one Triad doctor said nearly all of his patients are people who have not gotten the vaccine.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — As COVID-19 hospitalizations rise again, a doctor at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center said nearly all of his patients are unvaccinated.

Critical Care Physician Dr. Ashsish Khanna said vaccines brought hope to health care workers seven months ago. Now, hospitalizations are lower than they were in the winter but the patients are younger and he said caring for them is not getting easier.

"Our nurses and our doctors and our respiratory therapists are tired," Khanna said.

Frontline workers have been battling the pandemic for a year and a half. Cone Health is also seeing more COVID-19 patients in its emergency department.

"We are starting to see an increase in our COVID rates for both patients coming to the emergency room seeking care with COVID-like symptoms and an increase in our hospitalizations," Dr. Ann Councilman said.

Councilman leads Cone Health's emergency services.

Khanna said morale among his coworkers is decreasing as more hospital beds fill up.

"They're again seeing that despair and hopelessness with all of these young people dying," Khanna said.

Wake Forest Baptist Health does not release data on how many COVID-19 patients it is treating or their vaccination statuses. Khanna said nearly all of their patients are unvaccinated.

"I have not to date seen a vaccinated individual be hospitalized in ICU under my care at this institution," Khanna said, "<Here (they are) struggling for life in an ICU where a simple intervention like getting yourself a series of two vaccine shots could've prevented all of this."

Forty-six percent of North Carolinians are fully vaccinated. Dr. Khanna worries more will end up in his care if vaccination rates do not increase.

"There is no reason that anyone should ever be dying a painful and lonely death from COVID when there is an opportunity to save yourself and save your family at this stage," Khanna said.

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