MIRAMAR (CBSMiami) – As South Florida remains under siege by the rising number of COVID cases, the Chief of Critical Care for the Memorial Healthcare System is making a plea to the public to get vaccinated and help curb the number of cases.

According to Dr. Aharon Sareli says 25% of the system’s 1,650 patients are being treated for COVID-19. There are six hospitals in the Memorial Healthcare System.

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“The biggest tragedy we are seeing is a preventable loss of life and people paying the ultimate price. This could have been prevented with the vaccine,” Dr. Sareli told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench outside of Memorial Hospital in Miramar on Friday.

Sareli spoke as the Memorial Healthcare System released new video showing him inside a COVID intensive care unit.

“This is our third major spike in COVID cases,” said Sareli. “This morning we had over 420 patients with COVID and 55 of them in the ICU. On June 19th we had less than 90 cases,” he said. “Since June 19th we have seen a 4-fold increase in cases, and they are rising every day. This is a high volume for our health care system that has 1,650 patients.”

WATCH: Tour a Memorial Healthcare System COVID ICU


“We know that a high percentage of the elderly are getting vaccinated, and we are seeing more of the younger population,” he said. “More than 96% are unvaccinated.”

He added in the ICU, out of 55 people who are fighting for their lives, only one person has been vaccinated.

“We are taking steps to find more spaces to help people and we have converted conference centers and are always evaluating how to find more space.”

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The Memorial Health Care System had 200 ventilators and that was adequate as is the stock of Personal Protective Equipment. He said estimates on when the latest spike in cases will peak range from mid-August to mid-September.

He also said 61% of the staff has been vaccinated but the number is growing.

He said he was concerned about misinformation that’s been conveyed about vaccines that are safe and effective.

He also spoke about the number of children now getting sick.

Dr. Sareli said there are more children in the COVID units, but fortunately most have mild or moderate symptoms.

“Thank God one of the things we have not seen with this virus is massive amounts of children getting critically ill,” said Dr. Sareli.

“I want to encourage everyone to get vaccinated to prevent the disease from spreading,” said Sareli. “Vaccinations are not bullet proof and the best way to fight this is to not get the virus in the first place. Get the vaccine and make smart choices. Wear masks indoors and avoid getting close to people in large gatherings. We will get through this.”

Juana Mejia, a COVID ICU Nurse Manager, said “97% of the COVID patients we see in the ICU are not vaccinated. Most patients are in their 30, 40s and 50s. It is very sad to have someone die in the ICU by themselves without seeing their loved ones.”

It is taking its toll.

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“I was told nurses in the ICU are tired. They are exhausted. This is very stressful for all of us. We want to see a decrease in COVID cases and the only way to stop this is to make sure we wear our masks and have as many people get vaccinated as possible,” said Mejia.

Peter D'Oench