As Georgia COVID-19 cases surge, health officials ramp up testing

Georgia Commissioner of Public Health, Dr. Kathleen Toomey says hospitals across the state are being inundated with sick patients, many of them infected with the new delta variant.

"There is just a lot, many, many people with COVID, and some are very, very sick," Toomey says.

 Hospital emergency departments are also seeing high numbers of people coming to their emergency departments looking for COVID-19 testing.

After a phone call earlier this week between Dr. Toomey, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, and hospital leaders across the state, Toomey says, her department agreed to surge its COVID-19 testing program again.

It had scaled back testing because of a lack of demand prior to the latest surge.

Toomey is urging people who need a viral test to go to a public health or a private testing site, not to hospitals.

You can find testing locations, she says, on the Georgia Department of Public Health's website

"Don't go to the emergency departments, who right now are overwhelmed with really sick individuals," Dr. Toomey says. "The testing sites are available on our website. You can see exactly where to go, what the hours are.  It's free of charge, and you don't have to worry about whether you're insured or not."

Right now, about 16% of people getting tested for COVID-19 in Georgia are positive for the virus, and 22% of hospitalized patients have the virus.

"And, the graphs I've seen are shocking, because we're seeing  20-,30-,40-year-olds," Toomey says. "We expect from modeling that this delta variant is going to continue to go up, not down, until at least September."

With just 41% of Georgians fully vaccinated, Toomey says the state is vulnerable.

"One thing I want to make sure people understand is this delta variant is like a totally different virus than what we were dealing with a year ago," she says.  "It's so easily transmissible. It makes you sick faster."

Just 41% of Georgian adults are fully vaccinated.

Although the 3 FDA authorized vaccines are not 100% effective, Toomey says, they offer a high level of protection against the delta variant.

Breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated people, she says, are typically mild.

"But, this virus now, this delta variant, seems to make a beeline for the unvaccinated, and we are seeing many many more cases, including kids, because they, most of them, are too young to be vaccinated."