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COVID surge is ‘senseless,’ local doc says as hospitals are flooded

Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 11:45 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 5, 2021 at 1:12 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A wave of COVID-19 cases that’s fueled by the super-contagious delta variant continues to affect hospitals across the region, with University Hospital seeing 72 inpatients as of today.

The total of 72 is up from 64 the day before.

As recently as July 6 before the delta variant became the dominant strain, the hospital was down to three inpatients, although the current surge is far below the post-holiday surge in January, when the hospital had nearly 150 inpatients at times.

Other hospitals across the CSRA have been seeing increases this week, as well.

We’re hearing from a doctor at University Hospital who is sending out a new warning about COVID cases.

In a Facebook post from the hospital this week, infectious disease specialist Dr. Ioana Chirca talked about what she’s seen and learned about the virus so far — and where it’s headed.

She says the average age of patients admitted to the hospital now is lower than in past surges, toward the 30- to 50-year-old range — and the overwhelming majority are unvaccinated.

Chirca also says the delta variant is more than 200 percent more contagious than the original strain.

Someone with the delta variant infects six to 10 other people.

Chirca says vaccination seems to remain highly effective in preventing severe cases, hospitalization and death.

She calls our COVID situation a tragedy, saying it is “senseless, stupid, and unnecessary.”

In giving an update to the Augusta Commission earlier this week, Dr. Stephen Goggins, director of the local health district, said vaccinations have dramatically declined in recent weeks. At the peak, Richmond County saw about 2,500 vaccinations a day, but now we’re seeing only about 200.

University Hospital urges people to attend a vaccination clinic Aug. 12 in its cafeteria dining room at 1350 Walton Way. Walk-ins will be welcome, but you can sign up at https://university_hospital_covid_clinic_aug-11.eventbrite.com. You must be 18 or older, and your state of residency does not matter.

For more options on vaccination in the CSRA, visit https://www.wrdw.com/2021/04/16/covid-19-vaccine-where-you-can-get-a-shot-in-2-state-region/.

City of Augusta to host 2 vaccination clinics

AUGUSTA, Ga. - The city of Augusta will host two COVID-19 vaccination clinics next week in an effort to increase the number of people vaccinated in the local area.

Here’s the schedule:

  • Aug 11. from 1-3 p.m. in the Linda W. Beazley Community Room at the the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building, 535 Telfair St.
  • Aug. 12 from 6-10 a.m. and 3-6 p.m. at the Augusta Transit Broad Street Transfer Center, 1546 Broad St.

At both events, the Moderna vaccine will be available for individuals 18 years old and older and the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 12 years old and older. Second-dose shots of both vaccines will also be available to those who bring vaccination cards.

No appointment is needed, and a nurse will be available to answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines.

Surge pushes Georgia Supreme Court to conduct matters remotely

ATLANTA - Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice David E. Nahmias announced Thursday that the court’s oral arguments scheduled for Aug. 24, 25 and 26 will be conducted remotely.

The decision to return to video conferencing for oral arguments comes in the wake of revised public health guidance and the increase of delta variant COVID-19 cases in Georgia.

Although the statewide judicial emergency order initially declared in March 2020 expired on June 30, the court has extended emergency rules that allow all levels of Georgia’s courts to continue conducting certain proceedings using videoconferencing technology.

“We continue to encourage courts to conduct remote proceedings when it is lawful, effective, and safer,” Nahmias said.

He added that the court would prefer in-person oral arguments, “but we have found remote oral arguments to be reasonably effective and safer for those involved with them.”

Evidentiary hearings and jury trials that must be done in-person should continue with appropriate public health protections in place, he said.

Also in the news ...

  • Augusta University says it’s staying vigilant against the delta variant of COVID-19, although the University System of Georgia at this point hasn’t mandated masks or vaccinations. The university system says masks are encouraged but not required except in clinical spaces such as Augusta University Medical Center, College of Nursing’s Nurse-Managed Health Center or the Dental College of Georgia clinics, as well as university shuttles. Vaccination is encouraged but not required.
  • Moderna officials say while its COVID-19 vaccine’s protection is holding up, it’s planning for booster doses to help fight the highly contagious delta variant. The current shots remain 93% effective four-to-six months after the second dose, according to the latest tracking of Moderna’s 30,000-person vaccine study, the company reported Thursday. But that came before the recent surge in delta-caused COVID-19 cases.
  • There were 71,726 cases of COVID-19 reported in U.S. children in a week’s time, an increase of 86% over the seven days prior, the American Academy of Pediatrics said. In its weekly report, the AAP said the number of kids infected has steadily increased during the month after declining in the early part of summer.
  • The City Council in Columbia, S.C., approved Mayor Steve Benjamin’s state of emergency to require masks in schools for faculty, staff, visitors, and students ages 2-14. The council voted 5-1 Thursday morning in a special meeting. Councilman Daniel Rickenmann was lone “no” vote. “I hope and pray the governor supports this position,” said Benjamin.
  • The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says the Palmetto State is testing itself for COVID-19 at a rate not seen since April. On July 30, DHEC data show 24,641 viral tests were tallied. It’s the highest number of tests since April 29, when DHEC received 25,305 tests. In that time, the seven-day percent positive average jumped from 4.4 percent to 12.2 percent.

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