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'They just didn't think they would get so sick' | NC doctor says unvaccinated patients skew younger during this surge

More than 3,500 North Carolinians are in the hospital with COVID-19. A majority are unvaccinated.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — More than 3,500 North Carolinians are in the hospital with COVID-19. A majority are unvaccinated. WFMY News 2 wanted to know more about the patients and who's been hit hardest by the delta variant. 

Locally, Cone Health has added an important element to its COVID-19 dashboard. Not only does it show the current number of patients, which is at 126 as of Wednesday, it also shows a breakdown of vaccinated versus unvaccinated patients. Overwhelming, the majority are unvaccinated. All twenty of the most severe patients - the ones on a ventilator - fall into that category.

"It is hard to say it, any reassuring way, that they are going to survive. It is a very aggressive disease process and it feels a little bit more severe than it did last year," said Dr. Cynthia Snider, an infectious disease expert with Cone Health.

Snider said the surge in hospitalizations hasn't peaked yet. They anticipate it'll be another four to six weeks. She said they're prepared to handle even more cases - a total of 250, to be exact. 

"We are not necessarily surprised, but I think that everybody has some fatigue. They've been in the trenches for 18 months and this is preventable. That's the part that's the most challenging," she said. 

The unvaccinated patients at Cone Health are skewing younger. The average age is 57, according to Snider. While several have underlying conditions, she said, it's not everyone.

"As we are caring for a lot of our COVID-19 patients, there have been a few that have said the same story - they just didn't think they would get so sick to be required to be in the hospital. There's a bit of regret that they, again, have also infected other family members," she said. 

Her main takeaway: The unvaccinated will eventually get that immunity, through infection or through the vaccine. The vaccine far reduces your risk of being hospitalized, of being part of this statistic.

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