FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- As Delta-variant cases of COVID-19 sweep across the Sandhills, Cape Fear Valley officials are sounding the critical alarm on the effect its having in the hospital. The strain is gripping the lives of many children and adults who are unvaccinated and otherwise healthy.
"Right now, we're experiencing the worst surge we've had in this entire pandemic," said Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Michael Zappa. " A much higher percentage of the patients are requiring ICU care. That is, they're requiring intensive care. Many more are being placed on a ventilator. Every day we come in and find three to five people have died from COVID-19 overnight."
According to Zappa, the Delta variant is straining resources, which has led to longer hours for overworked staff and limited hospital capacity. There are now longer wait times that have forced officials to establish a tent outside to serve overflow patients.
He said he's watched patients who didn't believe COVID-19 was real ask for the vaccine while on ventilators fighting for their lives.
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"We tell them they have COVID-19 and they ask, 'can I have the vaccine? We tell them not now when you get better. The real question I'm thinking in the back of my mind is if you get better," said Zappa.
He told ABC11 that Cape Fear Valley Hospital is still accepting ICU-level transfers, but other hospitals such as Duke Hospital and UNC are not. His urgent warning to those who don't believe in vaccine efficacy is that this could be a life-or-death situation.
"Over 90 percent of these are preventable if people only would have taken advantage of getting a vaccine," said Zappa.
On Wednesday, a Cape Fear Valley Medical Center spokesperson confirmed 147 positive COVID-19 patients, including three pediatric patients. She added that the medical center continues to be at or near capacity.