Georgia hospitals prepare for surge of COVID-19 cases

As of Monday afternoon, more than 1,300 Georgians were hospitalized with complications of COVID-19, according to the Georgia Department of Health.

Across the state, hospitals are ramping up, expecting some difficult days ahead.

At WellStar Health System, Dr. Chirag Patel, Medical Director Population Health, says his 11-hospital system is as ready as it can be for a projected surge in COVID-19 patients.

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"This is all hands on deck," Patel says. "This is a time where everybody is needed."

Patel says he's been watching outbreaks in New York City, New Orleans, and hard-hit Albany, a city of 75,000 people in southwest Georgia.

"These are my peers, these are my colleagues," Patel says. "They're family. I am thinking (about) fear and anxiety for them. I'm fearful for what could happen here, if we don't do the things that are appropriate, that our scientific communites are recommending."

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Right now, Patel believes WellStar Health System has the staffing, beds, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, or PPE, to handle a major jump in sick patients. Still, he says, this virus is unpredictable.

Scott Steiner, the CEO of hard-hit Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany, warns their surge hit almost overnight, with hundreds of sick patients filling their ICUs as quickly as they could expand them.

Patel does not work in the ICU, but has been walking through and talking with the staff.

Learn more about the coronavirus outbreak in Georgia

"The ICU is usually a very controlled setting," he says. "We know what's going on. Everything is well- managed, well-controlled, timely, and all of that has been disrupted. That disruption creates anxiety. Everybody is used to doing things a certain way, but the volumes are higher, the acuity and the severity of the illness are higher. So, we are trying to support our providers and our nurses as best as possible, but it is an anxiety-provoking time right now."

Taking on COVID-19, he says, is a little like trying to build a plane in midair. But, Patel says he and his colleagues know this is a moment they've trained for, a chance to save lives.

"This is that time, right?," he says. "This is what we signed up for."

Best prevention measures:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
  • If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

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