AU Health reinstates mask policy to prevent another COVID surge

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 11:14 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Cases up here and around the country. It’s enough of a problem that AU Health is rolling back its mask policy. The ones most at risk you heard it there, the ones who haven’t been vaccinated. Today we spoke to AU’s top doctor about why they’re making the change now and what the next few weeks could hold.

Masks are back for everyone at AU Health, vaccinated or not, it’s an extra precaution to protect staff and especially patients. AU Health says they know it works so as the Delta variant spreads, the mask policy is back to try and stop another surge.

“The current outbreak is an outbreak of the unvaccinated and the Delta variant is most certainly a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, VP and Chief Medical Office of AU Health System.

AU Health currently has 19 COVID patients nine of those in the ICU which is nowhere near the 145 patients they treated at the peak of the pandemic. But the problem is the characteristics of the patients.

“This variant appears to be more transmissible and effects younger people and so its the 18-39 year old crowd that unfortunately that is really poorly vaccinated and were seeing those patients requiring admission to the hospital,” said Dr. Coule.

Our vaccination rate is still at 30 percent and for the hospital workers 56 percent.

“That’s kind of consistent with other health care facilities and unfortunately I would consider that too low,” he said.

For now they’re preparing for the worst.

“The team convened again today looking at our capacity and made sure that we’ve refined our plans and we’ll be ready for whatever comes but right now it’s just business as usual,” said Dr. Coule.

It’s not a surge yet, but doctors say the trend is concerning. For now the mask policy is the only thing changing. They haven’t cut back visitation and family and friends are still welcome.

“We’re very focused on patient family centered care and we believe that family and support person presence is a big part of the healing process,” he said.

Hoping for the best so we can get back to normal for good.

“And it was nice while it lasted, in that it was nice to see people’s faces again and really helped to boost our staff’s morale,” he said.

Doctor Coule says they’re monitoring the situation closely so if risks increase or decrease they will adjust their policies accordingly to keep everyone safe.