PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Early in the pandemic, Dr. Nehemiah Thrash diagnosed Riverside Health’s first COVID-19 patient. The elderly woman did not survive.

Eighteen months later, Thrash, a hospitalist at Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg says the novel coronavirus is writing its own rules.

“It’s been a drastic change in every way that we see,” said Thrash. “This past week I had an 84-year-old patient who came in just because he felt weak ended up having the coronavirus but because he was vaccinated he went home in 36 hours. But I have patients in their 50s who have been in my hospital for over a month now and on a ventilator for 20 days.”

Doctors around the country say most patients who are hospitalized are battling the delta variant and they are unvaccinated.

Thrash says half of his patients are COVID-19 cases and today’s patients are younger and sicker than the patients of 2020.

“Those patients [patients of the past] kind of reminded me of my parents or grandparents… Now we are seeing patients in the 40s and 50s. I’m seeing my peers in front of me,” Thrash said.

FILE – In this Aug. 31, 2021 file photo a R.N. holds the hand of a COVID-19 patient in the Medical Intensive care unit (MICU) at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare made the announcement Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. St. Luke’s Health System, Idaho’s largest hospital network, asked state health leaders to allow “crisis standards of care” on Wednesday because the increase in COVID-19 patients has exhausted the state’s medical resources. (AP Photo/Kyle Gree,File)

Thrash added the nation is seeing in real-time the making of modern medicine.

“There’s conflict over when booster shots should be administered, which segment of the population should be vaccinated, and whether, for example, someone who received the Pfizer doses should get Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster doses,” he said.

Thrash says the mixed messaging will cause some confusion but the public health community must effectively spread the word that the vaccine is safe and effective.

In Virginia, 62.1% of the white population has received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine but in the Black community, the rate is 58.4%.

“This is not just the community this is my family these are my friends these are even some of my colleagues to them I would just say let’s keep talking,” Thrash said.

And for those who think the vaccine will make them sick?

“I have treated more complications from Tylenol or acetaminophen than I have for this vaccine so let’s continue the conversation,” said Thrash.