By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Nurses in Miami-Dade and Broward are speaking out about their stress amid the recent surge in Coronavirus cases and the need for more people to get vaccinated.

CBS4’s Peter D’Oench obtained new video from inside the COVID intensive care unit at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood and spoke with COVID ICU nurses there where they suit up in Personal Protective Equipment for their 12-hour shifts.

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COVID ICU Nurse Ali Adams said, “It’s been pretty difficult. My unit converted to a COVID ICU last January so it has been a year and a half. We thought all the cases and the numbers were going down. Most patients are young and most patients who get to the ICU unit are not vaccinated.”

“I can’t stress it enough, the need for vaccinations,” she said. “It could save your life. It can lower the symptoms. You won’t get symptoms like someone who is not vaccinated may get.”

COVID ICU Nurse Christine Giannettino is also captured on camera in her PPE working in the COVID ICU unit.

“It has been very stressful on us since the beginning,” she said. “I think we were not expecting the severity of it. Just the unknown is pretty stressful for us. Definitely, you should get vaccinated and protect yourself first and foremost and then additionally you are protecting your loved ones and your community. The more people being vaccinated the better we become.”

In the last 20 days, the number of COVID patients in the Memorial Health Care system has more than doubled from 94 to 234 patients. Most patients are unvaccinated.

Adams said most patients are young.

The Memorial Health Care System started limiting patient visits last week and may implement further restrictions.

D’Oench also spoke with two nurses and a Medical Assistant at the Miami Transplant Institute in the Jackson health system where the number of COVID patients in the past two weeks has jumped from 66 to 143 patients. The Jackson health system implemented new restrictions on Wednesday curtailing visits in which no more visitors at adult emergency departments and most inpatient units are allowed.

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Nikki Strong, a Nurse practitioner, said “For us over there in the Transplant Center it is very stressful for us because patients are already Have compromised immune systems. I thought our numbers were trending down but they are going back up. We thought we were getting back to normalcy but now they are going back up the other way.”

“It is so important for people to get vaccinate right now so we can decrease the number of cases,” she said. “It is not only a personal decision but a community decision. So we need to look out for ourselves and others. There’s a lot of people who are positive and who don’t show any symptoms and can pass it on to others.”

Nurse Jose Rodriguez said, “Once again I thought it was over but now we are back at it again.”

A beleaguered Guilene Nelzy, who is a Medical Assistant, said, “The stress level for it is absolutely high. We thought it would be over and then all of a sudden the rate is up again. It is like we are back at square one all over again.”

“It’s tough,” she said. “Every day you can be exposed to COVID then you have to go home to your family and take precautions. Sometimes you go home and you have to undress in front of your house so you don’t expose everybody.”

“We hope things will go back to normal,” she said. “Who wants to wear a mask every day. I want to go back to normal so we can breathe fresh air. You feel abnormal wearing a mask all day. It is tough.”

She looked at the camera and said with a plea, “Get vaccinated, everyone. It is so important to get vaccinated.”

Another factor is making the job more stressful for some nurses.

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The traveling nurses who came to South Florida to help out nurses here by working different shifts during the Pandemic are no longer here.

Peter D'Oench