According to the Atlanta Constitution-Journal Newspaper, Georgia became the 4th highest state for coronavirus hospitalizations in the nation last week.
Some fear the worst is still ahead for hospitals that are already strained from the fall and winter spike.
According to a report dated Sunday and obtained on Wednesday, the White Hose Coronavirus Task Force says, “Georgia is in full pandemic resurgence and will experience continued increases in new COVID (hospital) admissions and fatalities.”
Georgia is seeing a record high of people being admitted to the hospital for COVID-19. It’s expected that there will be a surge in deaths as well.
On Wednesday afternoon, 5,721 patients were hospitalized for the virus, making up more than a third of patients admitted.
Based on state and federal hospital records, the increase has strained hospital staff and resources. Across the state, nine out of ten ICU beds are full, and almost half of the ICU patients are infected with the virus, the AJC reported.
Georgia hospitals have warned of overflowing critical care units, as well as emergency rooms. Officials also fear rationed care.
John Haupert, CEO of Georgia’s largest hospital, Grady Health System, which operates Grady memorial hospital, released a statement after Wednesday’s alarming report. Haupert sent out a community briefing saying the safety-net hospital is at capacity after treating more coronavirus cases over the past two weeks than it ever has before.
“If admissions continue to climb, I worry we will face what hospitals in other states grapple with — tough choices on providing care,” Haupert said.
Georgia’s COVID-19 field hospital located at the Georgia World congress center—which Grady assists in operating—has 42 patients out of 60 staffed beds, Haupert reported in his memo.
The state’s Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 8,596 new confirmed and suspected cases of the virus, making it the seventh day rolling average of new and suspected COVID-19 cases at roughly 9,800 cases. Three times what it was on December 1.
On Wednesday, Georgia reported 136 new coronavirus deaths—with another five deemed “probable.” The day before was 145 deaths.
However, many of these deaths happened days or even weeks prior since it takes time for states to report.
The death average is now at 78, the highest it’s been since the start of the pandemic, AJC reports.
The nation is seeing a “significant continued deterioration,” the White House task force stated. The spread is occurring at about twice the rate it was during the spring and summer waves.
“This acceleration and the epidemiologic data suggest the possibility that some strains of the US COVID-19 virus may have evolved into a more transmissible virus,” the report said.
Last week, Georgia reported its first confirmed case of the U.K. strain. Although it is not believed more deadly or cause worse disease when contracted, it is believed to be far more transmissible than the initial variant.
If this strain or other more virulent strains become more common, it could result in more people going to hospitals that are already strained.
For months now, the task force has told Georgia that it needs to heighten its mitigation efforts. This would include masks, strict social distancing, and an increase in testing and vaccinations.
Governor Brian Kemp has refused to mandate any new restrictions on businesses or social gatherings and has left it up to Georgians to be responsible.
“It’s going to be a really hard beginning of the year if we don’t buckle down,” said Jodie Guest, a professor and vice-chair of epidemiology at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. “We have got to control the spread while we rapidly vaccinate.”
Still, Georgia ranked 16th when it came to new cases in the nation as of Friday, which is an improvement from ranking 9th the week before.
Out of 159 counties in Georgia, 152 are in the red zone for high infection rates.
To help combat the surge, the task force encourages states not to delay vaccinating people 65 and older and vulnerable to severe disease.
“No vaccines should be in freezers but should instead be put in arms now,” the report said. “Active and aggressive immunization in the face of this surge would save lives.”