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Indiana hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients, many of whom are unvaccinated

"From a health care perspective, it's frustrating because it's these unvaccinated people that are straining the system," said one hospital CEO.

FRANKLIN, Indiana — Hospital beds are still filling up across Indiana. Many are maxed out with rising COVID-19 cases.

Most of the people hospitalized who have severe complications did not get the COVID vaccine, and as we head into the new year, hospital leaders worry about yet another surge.

Johnson Memorial, like virtually every Indiana hospital, is bursting at the seams with sick patients.

"We've been on diversion more days than we haven't, and we continue to be forced to, you know, hold people in the emergency department awaiting beds," said Dr. David Dunkle, president and CEO at Johnson Memorial. "We've had to cancel some obviously non-urgent procedures."

And with the omicron variant spreading fast, hospital leaders are worried that more staff could get sick, just as more unvaccinated Hoosiers need critical care.

Almost all COVID patients at Johnson Memorial are unvaccinated.

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"If you have a nurse call in at the last minute because she's sick, you know, that's five beds I can't staff that evening," Dunkle said. "From a health care perspective, it's frustrating because it's these unvaccinated people that are straining the system."

Another concern is sifting through symptoms. Is it COVID or a cold?
With omicron, the lines are blurred.

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"With this new variant, it's very much more related to cold-like symptoms, right? It's runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, a little bit of fatigue. People will probably, might be prone to downplay those symptoms, 'Oh I just have a cold. I don't have COVID. I don't have the severe shortness of breath. I still have my taste and smell,' but that does not mean you don't have COVID. In fact, it's very likely you do have the omicron virus, but you have to get tested and please, at a minimum, wear a mask," said Dunkle.

Health officials are encouraging testing, mask-wearing and vaccinations, all to prevent a further COVID crisis.

"You can't be blind to the fact that over 800,000 people in this country have died of COVID," Dunkle said. "Those numbers aren't made up. You can't make up the fact that hospitals, once again, are overrun and having trouble providing the level of care people count on."

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