One by one, the frontline doctors stepped forward, removed their masks, and made a plea to the public: get vaccinated.
Around 75 doctors in Palm Beach County, Florida, gathered before sunrise Monday outside to beg the community to get vaccinated in an effort to stop the horrifying spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
“The vaccine still remains the most effective and reliable way to stop this madness," said Leslie Diaz, an infectious disease specialist.
Currently Florida's healthcare system is struggling to handle the burden of the Delta variant. The state's hospitals are filling up, with over 85% of inpatient hospital beds occupied, according to the Florida Hospital Association’s latest report.
"We are exhausted," said Rupesh Dharia, an internist. "Our patience and resources are running low, and we need your help."
In the last week, more than 150,000 people in Florida tested positive for COVID.
"It’s been a long two years, and quite frankly, we are all exhausted, both physically and psychologically, but nevertheless we remain focused and dedicated to continue to provide the best medical care to our patients," said Lee Fox, chief of staff at Jupiter Medical Center.
Unvaccinated people between the ages of 18 and 64 are driving the increased hospital load, and then expressing regret when they find themselves extremely sick with the virus.
“It is so frustrating," said neurologist Jennifer Buczyner. "Many of these patients have decided not to get vaccinated, but when they’re hospitalized, they tell us they wish they had."
Over a dozen doctors, most dressed in lab coats or hospital scrubs, stepped forward during the press conference Monday to speak.
Ethan Chapin, an emergency room doctor, said he was about to begin his shift for the day.
"The number of people I’m going to see today who I don’t need to, who don’t need to be there, who shouldn’t have been there in the first place if they’d taken the simple advice of getting vaccinated,” he said, begging people to get vaccinated. “Trust us now in what we’re telling you.”
One point that many doctors reiterated is that they too are part of the community and that they need their community members to help.
“It’s important to know we’re all here as the medical community, but we’re also part of your community," said Chapin. "We shop in the same stores. We go to the same bars. Our kids go to school with your kids.”
Currently, 62% of the Florida population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.
"The face of COVID is the person standing next to you," Diaz said. "It is the unknown, and it’s very unpredictable, so I plead with you and the community, one more time, please get vaccinated.”