Tuesday and Wednesday were the deadliest days for the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia, as a combined 282 people lost their lives.
“We are in a true crisis,” said Dr. Harry Heiman, a Georgia State University public health expert. “Not only are we seeing surging COVID cases and hospitalizations, but also, now the predicted and predictable surge in deaths.”
With 145 deaths Tuesday and 137 more reported Wednesday, 10,580 Georgia citizens have died as a result of COVID-19. In Bulloch County, Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn announced the county’s 39th coronavirus death on Tuesday — a 31-year-old woman with no known serious previous health conditions.
Meanwhile, the effort to expand the availability of COVID vaccines in the state was expanding, but the state stands near the bottom for giving vaccine shots.
CDC statistics on Tuesday showed that Georgia’s vaccine rate stood at 1,607 doses administered per 100,000, up from 1,346 on Monday. The state rate is now better than those of Arkansas, South Carolina and Alabama, but still ranks 47th of the 50 states.
Numerous Public Health departments, including Bulloch, have experienced a flood of calls and emails this week asking for appointments to get shots. Medical providers, too, are feeling the tremendous demand.
Katie Hadden, public information officer for the Southeast Health District, which includes Bulloch and 15 other counties, said the district is increasing its capability to deliver vaccinations and encouraged people to make appointments.
“We saw a need to expand appointment slots and have taken those necessary steps to increase our capacity,” Hadden said. “Additional appointment slots have been created for January. We encourage those who are eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccine to contact us at (855) 473-4374 to schedule an appointment.”
Gov. Brian Kemp again urged patience among people waiting to be vaccinated against the coronavirus and threatened to take vaccines away from large hospital systems that his administration says aren't moving fast enough to administer the shots.
“If this issue continues, the state will take possession of those doses and ensure that vaccinations continue,” Kemp told reporters.
Kemp made the statement Tuesday as infections and hospitalizations ran at record levels
One person in every 154 people was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Georgia in the seven days that ended Monday, behind only Alabama and South Carolina in terms of infection rates, according to figures kept by The Associated Press.
Local, state cases
Wynn said Bulloch recorded 36 new cases on Wednesday and 33 on Tuesday. Bulloch now has a total of 4,150 COVID, which have resulted in 39 deaths and 170 local residents being hospitalized since the pandemic began in March.
After setting a single-day record with 10,393 new cases Friday, Georgia had 5,685 on Wednesday and 6,005 on Tuesday. The state's total number of confirmed cases is now up to 654,356.
Wynn said East Georgia Regional Medical Center staff on Wednesday were caring for 28 COVID patients, with eight patients on ventilators. The hospital has had at least 21 COVID patients in its care since Dec. 21, reaching a peak of 31 patients twice last week.
COVID cases that require hospitalization continue to increase in Georgia, setting another single-day high on Tuesday with 6,097 state residents hospitalized with coronavirus. Georgia has seen hospitalizations increase almost every day since Nov. 15. In fact, since that day, daily hospitalizations have risen from 1,978 to 6,097 — a 203-percent increase in eight weeks.
Georgia had the fourth-highest number of people hospitalized per capita Monday behind Arizona, Alabama and Nevada, more than 45% above the national average.
Across the United States, cases that require hospitalization have declined slightly since hitting a peak last Wednesday 132,464 Americans in the hospital with COVID on that day. On Tuesday, hospitalizations stood at 131,326.
State, national case numbers
With 137 deaths on Wednesday, the state’s death toll is now 10,580. According to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, as of Monday afternoon, 383,939 Americans had died from coronavirus. Also, Johns Hopkins reported the U.S. has had 23,029,450 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
The Bulloch County Schools system has reported 22 new cases this week for a total of 319 COVID cases since classes started on Aug. 17.
On Monday, Georgia Southern University reported its highest number of weekly positive COVID-19 cases among its students and employees in the past four months, with 133 positive cases for the week of Jan. 4-11 – 127 self-reported cases and six university confirmed cases. It is the most cases since 363 were reported for the week of Aug. 31-Sept. 6.
East Georgia State College reported five new cases on its three campuses for Monday and Tuesday combined, including oneon the Statesboro campus. The college has had a total of 124 cases across its three campuses since Aug. 17.
Ogeechee Technical College reported four new cases for the week of Jan. 4-10. The college had not had a positive case at its Bulloch County campus since the week of Oct. 19–25, but all four cases last week were in Statesboro. Ogeechee Tech has had a total of 43 cases across its campuses since Aug. 17.
The Bulloch County Health Department, 1 W. Altman St. in Statesboro, continues to serve as a COVID-19 testing site, or specimen point of collection. It operates 8 a.m. till 11:30 a.m. on Mondays only. To schedule a free test, call (855) 473-4374 or visit www.sehdph.org/covid-19, where a test can be scheduled online.
Additional free COVID-19 testing continues Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon at Luetta Moore Park, 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
The Associated Press and Georgia Health News contributed to this report.
Jim Healy may be reached at (912) 489-9402.