FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Many people will recover from COVID-19, but the virus has put hospitals at or near capacity in South Florida, and left health care workers overwhelmed.
"I would describe this as something that we have to adapt to right now," said Opal Reynolds, who is the charge nurse in the surgical intensive care unit at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce.
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Reynolds has been helping save lives for 28 years and is now on the front lines of the deadly pandemic.
"COVID is here for a while, and we're the ones taking care of the patients. We're the ones they're depending on. We're right at that bedside, and we're here for them and for each other ... It can be grueling," Reynolds said. "Not only are we focusing on our patients, but we're focusing on the family because we don't have any visitors coming to the hospital, so we're FaceTiming with them and keeping them updated."
Cases continue to climb in Florida, and everyone and anyone can get the virus.
"We've had everybody from deep in their 90s on the top end to under 1 year old come positive with COVID," said Eric Goldman, the CEO of Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.
Goldman tells WPTV his ICU is full, but the hospital is routinely at or near capacity, and they have been able to manage. He said contingency plans are in place if cases were to skyrocket even further.
"As the rest of the country continues to get worse and Florida stays an epicenter ... we're starting to see symbols of maybe shortages in the future," Goldman said.
Doctors and nurses have been working non-stop, but 22 nurses from outside of Florida started orientation Wednesday at Lawnwood to help provide some relief.
"With adding the nurses from out-of-state, it's giving our nurses we have here, that dedicate their lives to this hospital, it's giving them a well-needed break so they can take a deep breath," Goldman said.
At JFK Medical Center in Atlantis, nurses have also been deployed for additional support. Nurses have arrived from around the state of Florida and three HCA colleagues from sister facilities in Alaska and Colorado.
Reynolds said the pandemic has been life-changing, and the extra help is needed right now.
"The only way we are going to combat this and not make it spread is we have to wear a mask. We have to do proper hand washing, and we have to social distance as much as possible," Reynolds said.