‘People in their 20s, 30s, 40s, dying.’ Doctors frustrated with RGV trend of unvaccinated COVID patients


CAMERON COUNTY, Texas (KVEO) — Parts of the Rio Grande Valley are above the “high hospitalization” threshold like they were during the winter spike.

Doctors in Cameron County said this spike is different from the previous two because younger people are dying.

“You see people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, dying,” said Dr. James Castillo, the Cameron County health authority when asked what the difference was between this spike and the one in January.

Since February, hospitalizations in Trauma Service Area V, which comprises the Rio Grande Valley, had been going down. Doctors were hopeful the vaccine would keep them there, and it was. For a little while.

“We had very scarcely new admissions, that was a couple of months ago as. But then over the last month, it started trickling in, slowly but surely,” said Dr. Jamil Madi, the director of the ICU at Valley Baptist Medical Center.

Instead, hospitalizations have surged to higher than they were in June 2020.

“Healthcare systems are designed to deal with that,” said Castillo. “They’re designed to deal with a steady flow. They’re not designed to deal with big surges.”

Hidalgo and Cameron Counties now have several hundred COVID patients in their hospitals, putting them squarely in the high hospitalization area once again.

This is the third big wave of COVID hospitalizations since the pandemic began.

“Some of us are saying, ‘oh no, not again.’ And we’ve seen these waves, several times between last year and early this year.”

In the first waves of hospitalizations, it was mostly older patients getting hospitalized and dying. But that was before the vaccine was available everywhere. Since the winter surge, vaccines have become widely available and open to everyone 12 and older.

This surge of patients is different from the past ones.

Castillo told KVEO that during the current spike, most patients are “totally healthy, but with risk factors for severe disease but chose not to be vaccinated and are now hospitalized.”

He said that the most common reason an unvaccinated young adult ends up in the hospital is from obesity.

The stress of 18 months of the pandemic, coupled with recent anti-vaccination trends, is adding a new layer of frustration.

“It’s disappointing because the vast majority of people getting hospitalized were not vaccinated,” said Castillo.

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