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COVID-19 keeps spiking in CSRA even as hospitals plan for vaccinations

This is a developing story. Watch for updates later from News 12.
Published: Jan. 18, 2021 at 1:00 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - COVID-19 continues to rip through the CSRA, setting records or near records.

And even as some hospitals make plans for public vaccinations, others are being warned not to overcommit because demand far outpaces supply.

University Hospital

University on Monday set a new record of at least 149 coronavirus inpatients.

Spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester said the record was reached after the hospital had a high number – 14 – in the emergency department, and seven in the hospital under suspicion of infection as they awaited test results. Eleven in the emergency department received orders for admission, Sylvester said.

As a result, despite discharging 19 COVID-19 patients in the past 24 hours, the hospital beat its previous record of inpatients.

Meanwhile, “internal vaccinations” at the hospital will continue Tuesday for employees and retirees over 65.

“We’re chipping away at getting those high-risk groups covered as we receive vaccine shipments,” she said.

She emphasized the importance of continuing to wear a mask, wash hands and social distance even after vaccination, since the vaccine’s effectiveness isn’t quite 100 percent.

Augusta University Health

AU Health continues to make plans for the day it can offer vaccinations to the general public.

Hospital administrators say they plan to use their current clinic on the first floor of Professional Building 1 during the initial phases of public vaccination.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule confirms AU is also seeking approval from South Carolina health officials to set up a public vaccination site in Aiken County and receive vaccine shipments from both South Carolina and Georgia.

And AU has officially expanded its monoclonal antibody therapy program. It is booked up every day, and officials say they are able to treat 18 patients per day. It’s now located on the first floor of the hospital.

AU Health had 115 COVID-19 patients as of Monday, 44 of whom were on ventilators. Coule says the number on ventilators was near an all-time high.

Aiken Regional

On Sunday, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control provided updated guidance for vaccine providers stating, “Because vaccine demand has now far exceeded supply, DHEC is finalizing an equitable model for vaccine allocations,” the hospital said.

“While providers should prepare for increased capacity, no large-scale vaccination events should be held that would exceed a provider’s baseline allocation … without first consulting with DHEC to ensure sufficient doses would be available,” the agency told hospitals.

However, Jim O’Loughlin, CEO at Aiken Regional, said hospital officials are confident the state will distribute enough doses to fulfill the scheduled appointments.

As of Monday, Aiken Regional had administered 866 COVID-19 vaccinations to hospital employees and eligible community members. There are 1,288 people scheduled for vaccine clinics through the end of January.

Pending vaccine availability, Aiken Regional has been in discussion with community partners including the University of South Carolina Aiken on offering vaccine clinics.

Because of the discussions, “our teams will be prepared and ready to offer the vaccine to the community when it becomes more widely available,” O’Loughlin said.

As of Monday, Aiken Regional had confirmed 1,050 cases of COVID-19 in Aiken County. Of these 1,050 individuals, 45 are currently receiving care in the hospital and 93 have died.

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