South Valley hospitals plead for more vaccinations as hospitalizations rise

TULARE COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Only about a third of people in Tulare County have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

That's low in comparison to the rest of the state and has fueled a surge of patients at local hospitals.

"Unfortunately, Tulare County is behind and lagging in vaccination rates occurring in other parts of California, and because of this, our healthcare providers and hospitals continue to suffer," supervisor Amy Shuklian said.

Three weeks ago, Kaweah Health Medical Center was caring for ten patients with COVID.

As of Wednesday, there were 64. Eleven were in the ICU, and all but one were unvaccinated.

Kaweah's chief nursing officer, Keri Noeske, expects the situation to get worse in the days ahead and the hospital is once again preparing to be pushed to the brink.

But they say there's one simple way to ease that pressure on the healthcare system -- get vaccinated.

RELATED: Rural areas of Fresno County seeing low COVID-19 vaccine rates

"Make the decision for yourself but get your information from someone that you trust that knows your health history," Noeske said. "Try not to use the different things that you may come across (from) different sources that are not vetted through social media right now, because there is a lot of information out there and your doctor does know you the best."

Compared to previous strains, the CDC says someone infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to twice as many people.

Research has shown the vaccine is extremely safe and effective against the variant, especially serious illness or death.

Adventist Health Central Valley Network's Gurvinder Kaur has treated some sick patients who have expressed regret about not getting the shot.

"When they ended up on the ventilator or being close to being on the ventilator, they had expressed this emotional plea to their family members to go get vaccinated," Kaur said. "That is the most heart-wrenching plea. That really does hit you as healthcare workers and that's where I'm coming from when I make this plea to our communities, because we have seen it over and over again. I would really urge people to not make the mistake of not getting vaccinated if you are eligible for it."

Dr. Kaur also encouraged children 12 and up to get vaccinated.

The new school year is here, and she says the vaccine will offer students and their families the best protection.

The health experts also touched on today's stronger recommendation from the CDC that pregnant woman get vaccinated.

RELATED: CDC urges all pregnant women to get vaccinated against COVID-19

The CDC says evidence suggests the benefits of the vaccine outweigh any potential risks.
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