Southcoast hospitals are seeing around 100% capacity at their ICU facilities amid the post-holiday surge in COVID-19 cases, according to one Southcoast Health doctor.

Dr. Dani Hackner, a pulmonary critical care doctor and the Chief Clinical Officer for Southcoast Health hospitals, spoke out about the current pandemic surge.

"The situation is very tough," he said, noting that doctors are seeing "very high" numbers of patients coming into emergency departments with COVID.

"It is devastating communities, it is devastating families," he added. "This is something that really should make folks rush to get not only their vaccine, but their booster."

Of the 162 coronavirus patients currently hospitalized in Southcoast facilities, Dr. Hackner noted, 17 are in the ICU and 14 of those are on ventilators.

"You're seeing sometimes back-to-back gurneys along corridors," he said. "Sometimes even ICU patients getting direct care there."

"It's taking a huge toll on staff," he added. "I think folks are really tired. They're really, really tired."

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According to Dr. Hackner, both the delta and omicron variants are circulating, and both are dangerous.

He said the "vast majority" of most patients admitted to the ICU due to COVID — the ones with respiratory or organ failure — are unvaccinated.

And many of those catching the virus are young.

"We did an analysis on age, because we're seeing younger patients," he said. "A year ago, we saw a peak age of around 55 for COVID."

Now, he said, the peak age group for COVID cases at Southcoast is 25.

Children are also testing positive for COVID at increased rates, especially those aged 0-10 years old.

"There's been a huge surge in younger individuals testing positive," he said — along with a decline in cases for those above age 55.

"It's due to vaccination," he said simply.

During the course of the current surge, Dr. Hackner said he has seen "more than one" family with multiple family members hospitalized.

"I can't think of anything more heartbreaking than losing a family in the ICU," he said.

"It's something that you can't rewind and prevent," he added. "But we can prevent the next family from being devastated."

Dr. Hackner credits the Southcoast Health staff for stepping up during the crisis.

"It's a wonderful medical staff that has had a lot of energy, has a lot of camaraderie, and a lot of humility," he noted. "But it's just been a very long stretch."

An updated list of vaccination and testing clinics in New Bedford is available at vaxnb.com.

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