COVID-19 deaths surge anew in Ga. as hos­pi­tals stay full

Rome News-Tribune - - NEWS - By Jeff Amy

AT­LANTA — Surg­ing num­bers of COVID-19 deaths con­tin­ued in Ge­or­gia Wed­nes­day as the num­ber of con­firmed cases in the state sur­passed 150,000.

Health of­fi­cials say the jump in deaths fol­low the in­creas­ing num­ber of cases in Ge­or­gia. The state De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health re­ported 81 deaths Wed­nes­day, the sec­ond-high­est num­ber re­ported so far in the pan­demic, below only the 100 deaths re­ported on April 7.

The big num­ber fol­lowed 78 deaths re­ported on Tues­day, com­bin­ing to push up Ge­or­gia’s 7-day trend in deaths to a level not seen since early June. Not all deaths are re­ported im­me­di­ately, but state De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health spokesper­son Nancy Ny­dam said Tues­day that more than 90% of deaths with known dates re­ported Tues­day hap­pened in July, in­di­cat­ing they’re likely re­lated to the surge in cases that be­gan in Ge­or­gia in June.

Deaths are a lag­ging in­di­ca­tor in the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, fol­low­ing con­firmed in­fec­tions and hos­pi­tal­iza­tions. The state re­ported more than 3,300 con­firmed in­fec­tions Wed­nes­day, although stud­ies in­di­cate only a frac­tion of virus in­fec­tions are ever of­fi­cially con­firmed. That num­ber, although el­e­vated, ac­tu­ally shows signs of lev­el­ing off.

How­ever, 3,179 peo­ple were in the hospi­tal with the res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness on Wed­nes­day, stay­ing close to the record high set on Mon­day. Of the state’s crit­i­cal care beds, 88% were full, am­pli­fy­ing mes­sages from hospi­tal ex­ec­u­tives and med­i­cal work­ers that hos­pi­tals are run­ning out of room for new pa­tients. The num­ber of pa­tients on ven­ti­la­tors also rose, although not all in crit­i­cal care or on ven­ti­la­tors are sick with COVID-19

For ex­am­ple, the head of Ge­or­gia’s largest hospi­tal told re­porters Tues­day that At­lanta’s Grady Me­mo­rial Hospi­tal was op­er­at­ing at 105% ca­pac­ity, mean­ing some in­pa­tients were be­ing kept in the emer­gency de­part­ment.

“Dur­ing this sec­ond wave that we’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in many parts of the coun­try we’re see­ing dou­ble, triple the amount of COVID in­pa­tients that we saw dur­ing the peak that we ex­pe­ri­enced in May,” Grady CEO John Hau­pert told WABE-FM.

He said the hospi­tal was can­cel­ing some elec­tive surg­eries, a fi­nan­cial hit to the pub­lic safety-net hospi­tal sup­ported by Ful­ton and Dekalb coun­ties.

North­east Ge­or­gia Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Gainesvill­e opened its new mo­bile med­i­cal unit Tues­day, The Gainesvill­e Times re­ports, and tied its pre­vi­ous record for COVID-19 pa­tient num­bers across the four-hospi­tal sys­tem on Wed­nes­day. The 20-bed unit, built by the state us­ing mod­u­lar units, is in a gravel lot, free­ing up space in the main hospi­tal. The state has pro­vided sim­i­lar units in Al­bany, Rome and Ma­con.

De­spite a law­suit against At­lanta’s mayor and city coun­cil by Gov. Brian Kemp for ex­ceed­ing his ex­ec­u­tive or­ders, lo­cal gov­ern­ments con­tinue to or­der peo­ple to wear masks in pub­lic. Bibb County and the At­lanta sub­urb of Clark­ston both passed such rules Tues­day.

A hear­ing on an emer­gency re­quest by the Repub­li­can Kemp to stop At­lanta from en­forc­ing its mask man­date other re­stric­tions re­lated to the COVID-19 pan­demic while the law­suit is pend­ing was canceled Tues­day after judges re­cused them­selves. The case has been re­as­signed and the hear­ing is now set for July 28.

The Ge­or­gia Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion, in a brief filed in the case, says city mask or­ders are le­gal and Kemp can’t stop them in pub­lic, or on pub­lic prop­erty, as he seeks to do.

“None of the pro­vi­sions in that statute, or any other statute, pro­vide the gov­er­nor with the abil­ity to sus­pend home rule pow­ers of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties or pro­vide the Gov­er­nor with the abil­ity to pre­empt mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from tak­ing ac­tions that sup­ple­ment and are con­sis­tent with his or­ders, and which pro­mote and se­cure the safety and pro­tec­tion of peo­ple within their own ju­ris­dic­tions,” the as­so­ci­a­tion wrote in a brief filed Wed­nes­day.

Ap-scott Rogers

Nurse Man­ager Betsy Ross in­spects a pa­tient room in­side the mo­bile COVID-19 unit at the North­east Ge­or­gia Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Gainesvill­e. The unit went into op­er­a­tion Tues­day.

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