Many Georgia hospitals are groaning under the assault of COVID-19 infections, with total hospitalizations from the respiratory illness remaining above 3,000 statewide on Tuesday for the 10th day in a row.
As of Monday, 25 Georgia hospitals reported no critical care beds available. Nine reported no general inpatient beds, including Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and Fairview Park Hospital in Dublin, according to data obtained by The Associated Press from the Department of Public Health.
Statewide on Tuesday, 88 percent of critical care beds were in use, tying the highest level since the pandemic began. Not all critical care patients have COVID-19, however. Overall, patients with the respiratory illness were filling 3,157 of Georgia’s more than 21,000 hospital beds.
In southeast Georgia, where cases are rising rapidly, officials at Southeast Georgia Health System’s main hospital in Brunswick told The Brunswick News on Monday that patients are sometimes being held in ambulances because no beds are available.
Chief Operating Officer Christy Jordan told the newspaper that hospitals in Waycross, Jesup and St. Mary’s were full and sending patients to Brunswick. The hospital hopes to open up 32 beds by Wednesday as part of a renovation, but is trying to staff up rapidly. Jordan said the hospital has turned to staffing agencies to meet the need for more nurses.
In Macon, Navicent Health CEO Ninfa Saunders said the main downtown hospital is near capacity and has used a state-provided field hospital in the parking lot, but said the COVID-19 population of patients only averages 10% to 20%.
“We’re not overly inundated with COVID-19 but we are inundated with patients,” she told WMAZ-TV.
Grady Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Jansen told WSB-TV that the number of COVID-19 cases at Atlanta’s public safety net hospital has quadrupled in the last month. Jansen says the hospital is now seeing a jump in patients who are in their 60s and 70s.
“They are the ones who are at a higher risk of not doing well or dying so that’s very concerning to me,” Jansen said.
Georgia’s overall number of confirmed coronavirus cases passed 175,000 Tuesday as the state recorded one of its highest testing days ever, with results from more than 35,000 tests reported. Experts say many more people who contract the virus are never tested. Georgia’s positivity rate has been trending down slightly in the past two weeks, an indicator that more testing is beginning to flush out the true extent of infections. Still, that remains well above the 5% level recommended by many epidemiologists.
The main testing site in Savannah, for example, will stay open for two hours longer, pushing its daily capacity to 800 a day.
The number of deaths statewide rose to 3,563. Georgia has seen a spike in deaths as a wave of infections that began in June pushed up hospital numbers, with some patients becoming sicker and dying. Georgia’s seven-day average for deaths hit a new record on Monday but declined Tuesday.
The state revealed changes to its reporting website Tuesday that changed how it codes maps to show cases by county. Critics had repeatedly complained that the department was changing the scale for color-coding counties, which made it look like cases weren’t going up statewide. The department said that it will now change the scale only once ever four weeks, and publish historic maps when it changes the scale.
The department also for the first time unveiled a map showing the per-capita increase in cases in each county over the last two weeks. That change served to highlight fast increasing counties on the east side of the state, like Charlton and Wayne counties. Both those counties have been among the top 25 for fastest per-capita increase nationwide in the past two weeks, according to numbers kept by The Associated Press.