As new cases continue to surge in Bulloch County and the surrounding areas, more people were hospitalized Friday due to COVID-19 at East Georgia Regional Medical Center than any other day since the pandemic began in March 2020.
Ted Wynn, Bulloch’s Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency director, said 51 COVID patients were hospitalized on Friday at East Georgia, including 13 on ventilators. That’s an increase of 18 patients since Aug. 5. On July 7, the hospital only had two COVID patients.
“The latest COVID surge is certainly taxing our resources,” Dr. Alan Scott, chief of staff and director of Emergency Services at East Georgia Regional Medical Center, said in an email Friday. “We are at an all hands on deck response level mobilizing everyone we can to assist in dealing with this adversity. This places an immense burden on resources and the mental health of (our) already overwhelmed staff.”
Like East Georgia, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals across Georgia also is rising rapidly, exceeding 4,000 on Friday for the first time since Feb. 9 even as many hospitals warn they don’t have enough beds and staff. At least 30 hospitals statewide reported that they were turning patients away from emergency rooms and intensive care units.
Despite the continuing increase in COVID patients, East Georgia Regional CEO Stephen Pennington said Friday the hospital is “still able to flex beds and space to accommodate more non-critical care patients. The most challenging item at this time is patients that need a critical care bed.”
If the hospital gets to a point where it is at capacity and is unable to admit any more COVID patients, Pennington said: “We would work with other hospitals across our region to find beds. In times like this, we all work together as a team and communicate how we can support one another.”
It is likely East Georgia Regional will continue to see a rise in hospitalizations of COVID patients – The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 99 new confirmed cases in Bulloch County on Friday. It was the most local cases reported in a single day since 103 were recorded on Sept. 7, 2020.
“As always, our goal is excellence in patient care,” Dr. Scott said. “We will continue to provide that excellent care to the best of our capability and capacity as we work to get over this latest unprecedented hurdle.”
Also, the latest COVID surge is being fueled by the delta variant of the virus, which is causing more serious symptoms than previous surges and is affecting a much larger number of young people, Dr. Scott said.
“Unfortunately we now report almost double the number of very sick COVID patients we had during any of the prior surges,” he said. “We are seeing younger and sicker patients who are getting seriously ill more quickly.”
‘Please get vaccinated’
As cases rise at rapid rates, Dr. Scott believes more people getting a vaccine is still the best way to stop the spread of the virus.
“We are begging those unvaccinated to please protect yourself with the vaccine and help your neighbors and your community by being part of the solution. Please do your part.,” he said. “I personally feel like I am watching so many people and their loved ones drown because of one unfortunate choice – no life preserver. A COVID vaccination is truly your life preserver.
“We strongly urge anyone 12 and older to get vaccinated. The sooner we are all vaccinated the sooner we can put this behind us all.”
Vaccines are readily available at area pharmacies, doctors’ offices, East Georgia Regional Medical Center and the Bulloch County Health Department.
Bulloch County has seen a significant rise in the number of people being tested for COVID-19.
According to statistics compiled by the 16-county Southeast Health District, which includes Bulloch, the county has gone from having 15 tests done during the week of July 5-11 at the MAKO Medical testing site on Railroad St. in downtown Statesboro to having 295 tests done the week of Aug. 2-8.
And that’s just the tests administered by the Public Health Department.
“Tests are also performed by private physicians, hospitals, federally qualified health centers and urgent care centers, among others, so the (295 number) is not a comprehensive total of all testing done in our area,” said Katie Hadden, public information officer for Southeast Health District.
MAKO Medical offers testing services in Statesboro Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the last Saturday of each month from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
MAKO will ask for your insurance, but patients without insurance will not have to pay anything for testing. Results are available in two to three days.