Georgia COVID-19 hospitalizations surge, breaking new records

Georgia coronavirus cases surged to 111, 211 Friday, with a a record jump of 4,484 cases in the last 24 hours.

The Georgia Department of Public Health says 331 were hospitalized statewide, bringing the total number of current hospitalizations to a record 2,322.

Metro Atlanta hospitals are warning their critical care units are quickly nearly capacity, with Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center announcing its ICU is full.

Microbiologist Amber Schmidtke publishes a daily Georgia COVID-19 newsletter, , breaking down how the pandemic is evolving across the state.

Her main focus right now, Schmidtke says, is the rapid rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations that began in early July.

“There is nothing putting the brakes on this increase right now," Schmidtke says.

As of Thursday, the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported 83% of both ICU beds and general hospital beds are currently full.

The agency says 35% of the state's 2,808 adult ventilators are in use, leaving about 1,825 available.

 In some more rural regions of the state, Schmidtke says the number of open critical care beds had dropped to the single digits.

"We may just be one car accident away from reaching that capacity," Schmidtke says.  "They may have nothing to do with COVID, but when those beds are full they're not the sort of beds that get turned over very fast."

While hospitals are filling up, Georgia's COVID death rate seems to be dropping.

Schmidtke says that may be because more younger, healthier people seem to be getting infected.

They are less likely, Schmidtke says, to develop complications that could require critical care.

There is also usually a two-week lag between when people contract the virus and when they develop complications that could require hospitalization, she says.

Yet, this surge in hospitalizations comes just as parents across Georgia are trying to decide whether to send their children back to school next month.

"I definitely can't make a decision for all these parents," Schmidtke says.  "But, I will say, as a parent myself, I have chosen to do the virtual school route. It is really hard to imagine reopening schools when we are surging and illness, the way that we are. The only real thing that has changed since the time that we closed the schools in March versus today is that we have more widespread transmission of disease in our communities, than we did then."

Schmidtke is encouraging Georgians who can to mask up and stay home.

"We’re all tired of this," she says. "We all want to get back to normal.  But we need to understand that the virus doesn’t care whether we’re tired of it.  It just wants get to the next human." 

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