LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Top health officials in Acadiana say the pandemic is now at its worst. This fourth surge has surpassed previous spikes in hospitalizations. There are more people with COVID, more ER visits, and patients are getting younger.

There’s also an increase in the number of deaths, and it’s taking a toll on the doctors and nurses on the front lines battling the virus. The pandemic is putting great stress on the overall health care system — staffing, resources, and response time.

“These are our people. We all have limits,” said Dr. Henry Kaufman, interim chief medical officer at Our Lady of Lourdes. “We are finding the limits of some of our people, unfortunately. There will be long term downstream consequences of the exhaustion that’s going to come from dealing constantly with heartbreak and critically ill patients. Patients that we’re seeing that had an option, and didn’t access that option.”

There are currently 112 COVID patients at Our Lady of Lourdes. 94% of them are not vaccinated. There are 146 COVID patients at Ochsner Lafayette General. 91% of them are not vaccinated. Roughly half of the inpatient capacity at both hospitals is now taken by COVID patients.

“There’s just an underlying feeling of some anger from some that have been vaccinated,” said Dr. Amanda Logue, chief medical officer at Ochsner Lafayette General. “To know there’s protection available to people out there, and they choose or have not gotten the vaccine to protect themselves and their family.”

The surge in cases is causing other problems. For example, 100 surgeries a week for the past few weeks, at each hospital, have been postponed. And, the ER at Oschner is so busy, the wait time is up to 10 hours.

The average age for COVID deaths was people in their 70’s, now it’s in the 50’s.

Health care providers are also considering prioritizing all patients needing treatment, COVID and non-COVID, before they go to the hospital, if the surge gets worse.

Health officials continue to urge people to get vaccinated, wear masks, and avoid large gatherings.