COVID-19 surge ‘leaving families broken,’ straining resources, Georgia hospital CEOs say

By Tanasia Kenney

Hospital officials are warning about a strain on resources as COVID-19 cases surge across northwest Georgia.

In an open letter, the CEOs of six Georgia hospitals and the state’s Department of Public Health urged residents to act as the region grapples with “dramatically” rising coronavirus cases, driven in part by the highly contagious delta variant.

Officials pointed to rising hospitalizations among the unvaccinated, who they said make up the majority of COVID-19 patients on ventilators or on “advanced oxygen support.” The letter also cites coronavirus outbreaks among school-age kids and an overwhelming strain on hospital resources that’s leaving healthcare workers “physically and emotionally exhausted.”

“We need your help like never before,” read the letter, dated Sept. 3. “While a few municipalities have declared a state of emergency, if you look across the regional health care landscape, there is no mistaking that we are experiencing a public health crisis.”

The Peach State reported over 22,000 new coronavirus cases and 220 COVID-related deaths on Tuesday, according to updated data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. Data show an estimated 1.1 million Georgians have tested positive for the virus since the onset of the pandemic last year.

In the northwestern part of the state, hospital officials said vaccination rates are lagging. Only 35% of the region’s residents are fully vaccinated, according to their letter, leaving the unvaccinated at increased risk of severe illness or hospitalization due to coronavirus.

“COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased dramatically and are straining our hospitals,” the CEOs wrote. “Deaths, which can lag hospitalizations by a few weeks, are increasing significantly, leaving families broken and torn apart and frontline workers physically and emotionally exhausted.”

Officials emphasized that “the vaccines work” and are the best way of helping the state’s overburdened health care system.

“Let’s work together to stop the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19,” their letter concluded. “We strongly urge everyone age 12 and older to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public settings where social distancing is not possible and wash their hands frequently.”

As of Tuesday, 44% of eligible Georgia residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and 52% have received at least one dose of the two-shot vaccine series, state health data shows.

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