BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Nurses are exhausted at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital as they desperately try to save dozens of people infected with COVID-19.

“This virus was not the same as it was a year ago,” said Gurpreet Jawanda, ICU nurse at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital.

17 News took an exclusive tour inside the ICU at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital on Aug. 26.

Seven of the eight ICU beds in the COVID-wing are filled with sedated patients hooked up to life-saving machines. The only empty bed was being prepared for a new patient after another patient in their mid-20s died from the virus hours earlier.

“We’re seeing a lot of our patients without the comorbidities like we were in the past,” said Terri Church, Chief Nursing Officer at Memorial Hospital. “We’ve had 20-year-olds die in our facility. They were very healthy, they looked good and they just cannot get oxygen in their lungs.”

This is Kern County’s third surge of coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic. Although this current surge is not the worst, local nurses say they’re frustrated because they feel it was preventable.

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“We would have been in a much better place if more people would have gotten the vaccine,” said Dustin Neefus, ICU nurse manager at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. “I don’t even know how to convince somebody that this is real and it’s not something to take lightly.”

99.96% of hospitalizations across the county are people unvaccinated, according to data from the Kern County Department of Public Health.

No one in Kern County has been fully vaccinated and died from the virus, according to local health officials.

“Think of your immune system as the army,” said Jawanda. “You have a whole army and they can go fight a war but if they haven’t been constantly trained, they are not your best soldiers. Same thing with your immune system. Once you have a vaccine, your immune system is ready — it’s like the army is ready to go to war. So the moment your body gets exposed to the virus, your body is ready to fight.”

One patient we spoke with in the hospital says she did not get the COVID-19 vaccine and regrets her decision.

“I was anti-vax and now this has turned everything around,” said Dallis Madrigal. “We’ve got to take care of ourselves so we can take care of each other.”