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Local hospitals curb visitors as ICUs fill with COVID-19 patients

Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 5:23 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As more beds fill up at our local hospitals, we looked at which age groups are dealing with the most severe cases. People aged 18 to 30 are seeing the most cases, but most of the time, they're not the ones being taken to the hospital.

The surge in cases now causing a surge in planning.

“Right now, it’s much like a busy flu season so during flu season, hospitals start filling up to capacity. The ICUs get a little stretched. We start seeing facilities on diversion...And this is like a really busy bad flu season right now in the summer,” Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer at AU Health, said.

Each area hospital reporting only a handful of ICU beds remaining.

“So, for everyone’s safety, we’re limiting visitors. Believe me, we know how important family and visitors are to patients. So, we’re taking this measure simply because of safety,” Laurie Ott of University Hospital said.

University Hospital announced a change to its visitation policy. But that’s not the only safety measure officials are re-visiting.

“A little bit of extra stress on the healthcare system,” Coule said.

Converting hospital floors, opening additional COVID-19 wards, and creating more ICU space. All to maximize capacity while COVID-19 in the two-state does not appear to be slowing down.

“The number of ICU hospitalization and hospitalizations are up but,” Coule started. “You have to interpret this very carefully. It is very easy to make the statistics lie.”

We found hospitalizations are rising. The raw numbers show that jump, but compared to the overall confirmed cases, Dr. Coule argues the percentage is still relatively small.

Age groups 40 to 50 and 60 to 70 make up most ICU patients at AU right now, and the hospital also notes a recent uptick in Latino COVID-19 patients

Although not all local hospitals have released age and race demographics, the local healthcare community maintains overall hospitalization rates will continue to rise if precautions are ignored across the CSRA.

“An increase in cases means there is more work for us to do in terms of communicating, the importance of wearing a mask,” Ott said.

“We all have to remain vigilant and realize it doesn’t affect all communities equally,” Coule said.

The latest state COVID-19 data reveals there are still ongoing disparities among race, age, and rural populations. Health leaders continuing to argue because the severe risks are high for some and communities should act as if the risk is great for all.

Starting tomorrow, University Hospital will no longer accept visitors. They will also scale back elective surgeries by next week.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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