MIAMI (WSVN) - As health officials urge everyone who qualifies to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, new data shows fewer people are getting tested for the virus.
The finding comes as COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise across Florida.
7News cameras captured a lengthy line of cars wrapped around the testing site at Mills Pond Park in Fort Lauderdale, Sunday.
But the visuals are not representative of current trends. Experts said testing has gone down over the last two weeks.
Data pulled from the Department of Health and Human Services shows a drop of 25% in administered COVID tests.
Nurses and doctors are feeling the weight of the rise in hospitalizations.
“It feels like it’s almost worse than it was when it started last year,” said Janet Trumper-Whitney, a respiratory therapist at Memorial Hospital Pembroke.
That feeling is backed by data. Statewide, hospitalizations hit an all-time high in August.
As of Sunday, 17,253 people in Florida are battling the most severe symptoms of the virus from a hospital bed, an 18% increase from Saturday.
“The patients we’re getting are younger, and they’re turning sicker much faster,” said Trumper-Whitney.
Meanwhile, caseloads have increased, and deaths have more than doubled.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported most COVID patients who end up in the hospital opted out of the vaccine.
“When we intubate, then almost their last words are begging us for a vaccine, but unfortunately, by that time, it’s already too late,” said Michelle Benitez, an intensive care unit nurse at Memorial Hospital Pembroke.
On Saturday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis touted the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment, an immune system boost.
“Regeneron is the one monoclonal that has been shown to be effective against the delta variant,” he said.
The treatment is available for children as young as 12. Doctors said there’s a short window of time it’s most effective: after testing positive and before symptoms grow severe.
“That can help drive down hospital admissions and, at the end of the day, if you get infected, you’re in bed for a couple of days with flu-like symptoms, and you recover,” said DeSantis. “That’s much better than getting admitted to a hospital and letting this progress.”
“It’s really hard to see people die and to see families die, because we’ve had husbands and wives and parents and kids that have come in here,” said Trumper-Whitney. “It’s really overwhelming emotionally, and I wish people would just get vaccinated.”
The sites at Tropical Park in Southwest Miami-Dade and C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Park are offering the Regeneron monoclonal antibody therapy. They are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, click here.
Anyone with questions and concerns about the coronavirus can call the Florida Department of Health’s 24-hour hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
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