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Ga. sees 10K cases as local hospitals feel delta’s toll

Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 8:46 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 9:05 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - COVID cases and hospitalizations continue to soar across the CSRA in a spike that’s being blamed on the rise super-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus.

On Monday, Georgia saw more than 10,000 new COVID cases, the most seen in the state in months. Richmond County has seen 604 new cases in the past two weeks, and Columbia County has reported 413.

And across the Savannah River in South Carolina, health officials reported 1,852 new confirmed cases and 615 new probable cases of the virus for a total of 2,467. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control agency also reported eight new confirmed deaths and one new death with a probable cause of COVID.

In Augusta, University Hospital had 87 COVID-19 patients Monday. The hospital system has seen 80 new inpatients since Aug. 2, according to spokeswoman Rebecca Sylvester.

Although the inpatient total isn’t quite reaching the nearly 150 it saw during the peak of the post-holiday surge in January, the numbers represent a sharp spike. A little over a month ago on July 6, the total had dipped to three.

Also seeing increases are:

  • Doctors Hospital, with 39, up eight from Friday.
  • Augusta University Medical Center, with 66, up five since Friday.
  • Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center, with 44, up eight from Friday.

A graph using figures from the Georgia Department of Public Health shows how steep the rise in cases is. The chart, shown below, illustrates hospital inpatients in the Georgia portion of the CSRA, dating back to April 2020.

While new cases of COVID-19 were on the decline in the two-state region in June, cases have been on the rise since mid-July.

One positive indicator is that new COVID-19 deaths are relatively low compared to the winter surge of the virus.

“While deaths due to COVID-19 are declining because of the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines that are available, cases and hospitalizations are currently rising in South Carolina, as in many other states, because large numbers of the population remain unvaccinated,” DHEC officials wrote on the agency’s website. “We urge all South Carolinians to protect themselves and others by getting their COVID-19 vaccines if they haven’t already. Vaccines are how we end the COVID-19 pandemic once and for all.”

A recent DHEC data review suggests people who are not fully vaccinated account for nearly all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

New visitor rules take effect

University Hospital’s newest COVID-prompted visitation policy took effect Monday.

Now only one visitor is allowed per day for most inpatients.

Visiting hours will be from noon to 6 p.m.

All visitors must be older than 18 and wear a mask at all times.

COVID-19 patients cannot have visitors.

Among the other rules:

  • Women’s center: One support person allowed, who must stay in the room with the mother if they are going to be in the facility outside normal visiting hours.
  • Outpatient surgeries and procedures: One visitor allowed per day, per outpatient being seen for surgery or a procedure, throughout the length of the outpatient visit.
  • Emergency department: One visitor allowed per patient throughout the length of the ED visit. If outpatients or emergency department patients are admitted to the hospital, then inpatient visitation applies.
  • End of life: Four visitors; others allowed on a case-by-case basis per the patient’s physician.

For the full visitation policies, visit https://www.universityhealth.org/patient-visitor-information/for-visitors/visiting-hours.

There are also visitor restrictions at Doctors Hospital, Augusta University Health and Aiken Regional Medical Center.

Up Interstate 20 in Columbia, S.C., Prisma Health on Monday limited adult inpatients, outpatients and ambulatory pediatric patients to one visitor. The following restrictions will also continue:

  • Visitors must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth (no gaiters or vented masks).
  • Visitors will be screened upon entry.
  • Anyone with possible COVID-19 symptoms cannot visit.
  • Visitors must stay with the patient (not go to the cafeteria, gift shop, etc.)
  • On occasion, visitors should remain with a patient with special needs. Secure approval of attending doctor and administrator for exceptions.

Also in the news ...

  • FUNDRAISER DELAY: The Ronald McDonald House of Augusta has decided to postpone its largest annual fundraiser, Wine, Women and Shoes. The biggest reason: It would be hard to enjoy the event while wearing a mask. The fundraiser raises around $100,000 every year, but organizers say they want to put their mission above making money and protect the community.
  • McMASTER ON MASKS: South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster urged South Carolinians to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but insisted school districts should not require masks in the classroom. “For the government to mask children who have no choice to protect adults who do have a choice is the wrong thing to do. And we’re not going to do it,” he said.
  • GA. VACCINE RATES: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says vaccination rates have gone up since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning about the delta variant of the coronavirus. And he says full Food and Drug Administration approval for the vaccine could give Georgians greater confidence to get it.
  • MILITARY MANDATE: Members of the U.S. military would be required to have the COVID-19 vaccine beginning Sept. 15, under a plan announced by the Pentagon and endorsed by President Joe Biden. That deadline could be pushed up if the vaccine receives final FDA approval or infection rates continue to rise.
  • AMAZON MASKS: Starting today, Amazon will be requiring all of its 900,000 U.S. warehouse workers to wear masks indoors, regardless of their vaccination status. The move follows steps by a slew of other retailers, including Walmart and Target, to mandate masks for their workers. In many of those cases the mandates apply to workers in locations of substantial COVID-19 transmission.
  • CSRA SURGE: There’s a new surge in COVID-19 cases, but the message from our local health experts is the same: Get vaccinated. “We’re following the science and we’re basing the recommendation based on what the science says. Right now the science says if you’re not vaccinated ... you need to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Phillip Coule.
  • UPWARD TREND: South Carolina’s assistant state epidemiologist says the Palmetto State is headed in a similar direction to the January surge in new COVID-19 cases. But Dr. Jane Kelly said Friday the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is not asking people to go on lockdown.
  • 100 PERCENT PROOF: A popular music venue in Atlanta will require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result in order for people to attend. The Cult Winery made the announcement on its website, saying it is due to the increase of delta variant cases.

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