MIAMI (AP) — A young mother had just celebrated her first wedding anniversary and was one of six members of a Jacksonville church to die over a 10-day span.
Another Florida woman had just given birth to her first child, but was only able to hold the newborn girl for a few moments before dying.
A California man died a few weeks shy of his 53rd birthday while his wife was on a ventilator at the same hospital in Oakland, unaware of his passing on Aug. 4.
The COVID-19 death toll has started soaring again as the delta variant tears through the nation’s unvaccinated population and fills up hospitals with patients, many of whom are younger than during earlier phases of the pandemic.
The U.S. is now averaging about 650 deaths a day, increasing more than 80 percent from two weeks ago and going past the 600 mark on Saturday for the first time in three months.
Data on the the age and demographics of victims during the delta surge is still limited, but hospitals in virus hotspots say they are clearly seeing more admissions and deaths among people under the age of 65.
Florida hospital officials are seeing an influx of young, healthy adults filling their wards across the state, many requiring oxygen. In the past week in Florida, 36% of the deaths occurred in the under-65 population, compared with 17% in the same week last year when the state was experiencing a similar COVID surge. Florida is the national leader in coronavirus deaths, averaging more than 150 a day in the past week.
The younger patients mark a shift from the elderly and frail, many living in nursing homes, who succumbed to the virus a year ago before states made seniors a priority to get inoculated first. More than 90 percent of seniors have had at least one shot, compared to about 70 percent for Americans under 65.
At a predominantly Black church in Jacksonville with a hipster vibe, contemporary music, and a strong social media presence reflective of its young, energetic congregation, six members died over 10 days starting in late July. All were under the age of 35.
They were “all healthy, all unvaccinated,” laments Pastor George Davis of Impact Church, who knew each one personally and has struggled with his own grief at the funerals. He’s held two vaccination events for his congregation of about 6,000 where over 1,000 received shots.
Among the church members who died were a 24-year-old man Davis watched grow up since he was a toddler, and a woman from his worship team who celebrated her first wedding anniversary only weeks before she died. Her husband recovered.
Davis said the young woman was “just the picture of health, vibrant.”