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VIRTUAL AND VIRAL VOLUSIA — In what has become a rather common way to conduct public business, the Volusia County Council joins an Aug. 3 teleconference with the chief medical officers of Halifax Health and AdventHealth hospitals, for a briefing on the latest upward turn in the coronavirus pandemic. The health officials pleaded for more people to become vaccinated against the disease and for everyone to take precautions against the delta variant. On-screen are Dr. Margaret Crossman, at center on the lower screen, and Dr. Chris Smith, center, right. They said the delta strain is striking more younger people.

It is not the news anyone in the medical field or in tourism promotion, or with children getting ready to go back to school, wants to hear.
The coronavirus is spreading like wildfire in Volusia County, and the spread may become worse before it eases.
“We are seeing more and more younger patients,” Dr. Margaret Crossman, chief medical officer of Halifax Health, told the County Council at an Aug. 3 briefing.
Crossman was joined by her counterpart for AdventHealth, Dr. Chris Smith, in a videoconference broadcast at the County Council meeting.
They said both hospital systems have scaled back elective and non-life-threatening surgeries to cope with the influx of COVID-19 patients, and are reducing in-person visitations. Both senior physicians pleaded for more people to be vaccinated against the illness.
The latest number of cases of the potentially deadly disease is worse now, Crossman said, than the surge Halifax Health experienced at its three hospitals in Volusia County in January.
In January, the Halifax system maxed out at 55 patients, she said. Now there are about triple that number.
In addition to its oldest and largest medical campus in Daytona Beach, Halifax Health has hospitals in Port Orange and Deltona.
“About 90 percent of our patients are unvaccinated,” Smith said, calling upon those hesitating about shots to get them. “This is a surge that did not have to happen. The vaccine is widely available. It is free. … The data are crystal-clear.”
Smith said AdventHealth’s Central Florida Division hospitals are now caring for more than 1,200 coronavirus patients, including “about 300 just in Volusia County.”
There are also some changes in the demographics of the new wave of patients.
Smith said more people in their 30s and 40s are showing up at hospitals “extremely sick.”
The delta strain of the virus “does seem to attack children and young adults more aggressively” than prior strains, Smith said.
The latest coronavirus sufferers, Smith said, had told themselves, “‘I’m bulletproof. I’m not overweight. I don’t smoke’ … This is attacking young, healthy people.”
Since the pandemic hit the U.S. early in 2020, Volusia County Health Department Administrator Patricia Boswell said, the disease has taken a toll. As of Aug. 3, she told the County Council, Volusia has logged 54,926 cases of the coronavirus, and 912 of the victims have died.
Boswell said the average daily number of coronavirus patients in the county is now 470. She confirmed the younger set is more at risk.
“The average age is 33 years old,” Boswell said.
She also noted “96.5 percent of the cases are in the unvaccinated population.”
As for those cases involving fully vaccinated patients, Crossman said, “the symptoms are milder.”
Besides getting the coronavirus vaccines, both Crossman and Smith urged people to do more to boost their immune systems and overall health.
“Optimize your health,” Crossman advised. “Exercise to the extent you are able. We are so blessed to have a beach. … Get outdoors, and breathe fresh air.”
“There’s never been a better time to quit smoking,” Smith said.
Both physicians agreed a healthful diet and extra vitamin supplements will probably benefit people, but Smith cautioned they “are not a substitute for vaccination.”

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