For 1st time in months, a local hospital has no COVID patients

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 2:17 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As COVID-19 cases continue to fall from the delta-variant surge, the CSRA has hit a milestone: One local hospital has zero coronavirus inpatients.

The Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center reported that momentous number Wednesday.

Although the hospital has never seen the volume of COVID cases as some other Augusta hospitals, its patient count is down from the mid to upper teens of a few weeks ago.

University Hospital, a local bellwether of the pandemic, saw 167 patients at the peak of the pandemic in January and again on Sept. 7 during the delta surge.

On Wednesday, University was down to 23 inpatients — still what many would call an uncomfortable level but definitely an improvement.

Another indicator of the decline is the number of positive and quarantined students in local school districts.

As recently as early September, Aiken County had more than 5,000 students in quarantine. By the end of last week, that number had dipped to 299.

Local health experts are sounding more upbeat in the past couple of weeks, even predicting there won’t be a post-holiday surge like what’s happened before.

We’re seeing a “big big drop, and it’s consistent and continues,” said Augusta University’s Dr. Rodger MacArthur told News 12 a few days ago.

Doctors cite the number of people who’ve been vaccinated or developed immunity during the delta spike.

“So the CDC estimates now across the U.S. and Georgia over 30 percent of the unvaccinated have probably had a natural exposure. So you add that number to the 50-55 percent with the vaccine and the numbers suggest the virus is running out of targets,” MacArthur said.

He believes the virus is going from the pandemic phase to one where we’ll have little flare-ups here and there instead of a raging wildfire.

The decline in cases isn’t just happening in the CSRA but elsewhere, too.

State Epidemiologist Cherie Drenzek updated the Georgia Board of Public Health about the pandemic Tuesday.

Across Georgia, cases have plateaued, although they remain higher than before the surge, Drenzek said.

One concern is the state saw a steep drop-off in the number of vaccine doses administered in the first week of November compared with the first week of October.

That could change, however, with the recent approval of vaccinations for children ages 5-11.

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