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Kemp sends troops to help harried Ga. health workers

Published: Aug. 24, 2021 at 12:07 PM EDT
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ATLANTA (WRDW/WAGT) - Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday said the Georgia National Guard will deploy 105 personnel to hospitals throughout the state to assist the staff amid a newly resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

It came on a day when the Peach State reported 16,915 new COVID-19 cases and 71 deaths as the health care system grapples with the super-contagious delta variant.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, meanwhile, reported 3,648 new coronavirus cases and 10 deaths blamed on COVID-19.

Despite the setbacks from the delta strain that’s sent hospitalizations skyrocketing just a few weeks after they dipped to the single digits locally, the nation’s pre-eminent COVID expert says the battle can be won.

“If we can get through this winter and get really the majority, overwhelming majority of the 90 million people who have not been vaccinated vaccinated, I hope we could start to get some good control in the spring of 2022,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“We hope we’ll be there … but there’s no guarantee because it’s up to us.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 51.5% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, or 171.1 million people.

The number is quite a bit lower in the two-state region: Georgia’s rate is 42 percent and Richmond County’s is just 34 percent. South Carolina’s is 46.7 percent.

News 12 checked with some local residents who are resistant, and one, Cody Hammond, summed it up this way: “It’d have to be, you’re taking my kids away from me, or death sentence.”

He noted that he hates needles but is OK with getting tattoos.

Within the Black community, a study found vaccine hesitancy greatest among those ages 18 to 29. And COVID-related housing insecurity — difficulty paying the rent or mortgage or even eviction — increased the odds of vaccine resistance.

In some rural parts of the CSRA, the relatively low vaccination rate could be more about lack of access.

“You have places like down in Jenkins County where they’re told that you know, Friday and Saturday, vaccines are not available. The only day available is Monday through Thursday. And then only available for four hours then,” said the Rev. Christopher Johnson, Greater Augusta Interfaith Coalition director.

It’s mostly unvaccinated people who are filling up local hospitals as COVID patients.

Here’s a look at some local inpatient counts on Tuesday:

  • Augusta University Medical Center: 107 inpatients, up eight from Monday. Of those patients, three have been vaccinated. Of the 40 on ventilators and 51 in intensive care, two have been vaccinated.
  • University Hospital: 106 inpatients, unchanged from Monday. Eleven of those patients have been vaccinated. Of the 12 on ventilators and 15 in intensive care, two have been vaccinated.
  • Doctors Hospital: 56 inpatients, down five from Monday.
  • Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center: 16 inpatients, down three from Monday, Eleven inpatients are in intensive care.
  • Aiken Regional Medical Center: 37 inpatients, down three. Ten of those patients are in intensive care.

To put the current surge in perspective, the spike on the right side of this chart shows the increase in hospitalizations in the Georgia portion of the CSRA:

The surge in patients is why Kemp is mobilizing National Guard troops to help beleaguered health care workers.

In coordination with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Community Health, the trained medical personnel will assist staff at:

  • Southeast Georgia Health System, Brunswick
  • Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Gainesville
  • Wellstar Kennestone, Marietta
  • Piedmont Henry, Stockbridge
  • Phoebe Putney, Albany
  • Memorial Health University Medical Center, Savannah
  • Navicent Health, Macon
  • Grady Hospital, Atlanta
  • Piedmont Fayette, Fayetteville
  • Houston Medical Center, Warner Robins

“These guardsmen will assist our frontline health care workers as they provide quality medical care during the current increase in cases and hospitalizations, and I greatly appreciate General Carden and his team for their willingness to answer the call again in our fight against COVID-19,” Kemp said in a statement.

“This Georgia National Guard mission is in addition to the 2,800 state-supported staff and 450 new beds brought online I announced last week, at a total state investment of $625 million through December of this year. I continue to urge all Georgians to talk to a medical professional about getting vaccinated.”

Also in the news ...

ACLU LAWSUIT: The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit over a South Carolina law that bans school districts from imposing mask mandates. The lawsuit argues the ban effectively excludes vulnerable students from public schools and disproportionately impacts students with underlying health conditions or disabilities.

CARE CRUNCH: Some nursing homes and retirement communities on both sides of the Savannah River are concerned that an expected vaccination mandate for employees could make it hard to fill open positions, and they may even lose some of their current staff members.

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