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COVID patients hit new daily high at EGRMC
State universities won’t require shots, masks
Ted Wynn

More patients suffering with COVID-19 were hospitalized at East Georgia Regional Medical Center on Wednesday than any other single day since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Bulloch’s Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn reported 33 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized at East Georgia Regional Medical Center on Wednesday, topping the previous high of 31 patients on four separate occasions in December and January.

“We continue to see COVID cases rise dramatically here at EGRMC,” said Dr. Alan Scott, chief of staff and director of Emergency Services at East Georgia Regional Medical Center. “That is a similar trend in many communities across the nation. Younger, sicker and quicker is the most recent phase to describe what we are seeing.”

East Georgia Regional CEO Stephen Pennington said the hospital is nearing capacity for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, but can still accommodate more COVID cases, if necessary, that don’t require critical care.

The number of cases in Bulloch County continues the upward trend that began around the middle of July. The Georgia Department of Public Health reported Bulloch had 50 new confirmed cases since Monday – 31 on Tuesday and 18 on Wednesday. Bulloch has recorded 280 confirmed cases since July 12, after 39 were reported for the entire month of June.

“It is unclear at this time if the Delta variant, which now accounts for 80% of cases, is playing a role or just that the shift in demographics (to younger people) is a result of lower vaccination rates in this group,” Dr. Scott said. “It is clear the virus attacks all ages indiscriminately and we must continue our efforts to vaccinate. Vaccination is the single best tool we have to defeat this virus, along with continued masking indoors and social distancing.”

After reporting 6,480 new confirmed cases across Georgia on Tuesday, the Department of Health said 3,014 cases were added Wednesday.

The state's seven-day average for daily cases is now above 4,000, almost 11 times higher than when cases bottomed out in late June. The current seven-day average is the highest since Feb. 10, and higher than Georgia's peak in July 2020. The state's rolling average peaked above 9,500 in mid-January.

Hospitalizations also continued a rapid increase, climbing above 2,600 statewide on Tuesday. Statewide, 26 hospitals reported to the Georgia Coordinating Center that they were turning away all patients or new intensive care patients, including 7 of 11 hospitals in the Piedmont system and half of the 10 hospitals in the Wellstar system.

Dr. Alan Brown, chief medical officer of the Brunswick-based Southeast Georgia Health System, told The Brunswick News that the contagious delta variant and low vaccination rates have led to the system's hospitals having 10 to 20 times as many patients as they had in early July.

“At this rate, we’ll soon be facing capacity challenges, not only for patient beds, but also for nursing teams who care for our patients," Brown said, calling the stress on employees “disheartening.”

University System of Georgia

The University System of Georgia issued guidelines this week urging, but not mandating, masking and vaccinations.

“The University System of Georgia recognizes COVID-19 vaccines offer safe, effective protection and urges all students, faculty, staff and visitors to get vaccinated either on campus or with a local provider,” the guidelines stated.

“Additionally, everyone is encouraged to wear a mask or face covering while inside campus facilities. The system continues to work closely with the Georgia Department of Public Health to prioritize the health and safety of our campus communities.”

About 600 of the nation’s 4,000 colleges and universities have ordered students to get fully vaccinated in time for the fall semester, while hundreds also have imposed mask mandates.

The schools have cited new guidelines from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommending that even fully vaccinated Americans mask up indoors.

The University System’s policy is in keeping with Gov. Brian Kemp’s position on virus mandates. Like other Republican governors, Kemp has resisted calls to require Georgians to mask up or get vaccinated throughout the course of the pandemic.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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