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Ga., S.C. hospitals see more COVID-19 patients, shorter stays

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 1:38 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - As Georgia and South Carolina continue to set pandemic records for COVID-19 cases, hospitals are feeling the strain.

The South Carolina Hospital Association says more people are needing care at hospitals across the state due to the ultra-contagiousness of the omicron variant of coronavirus, which is driving the surge in cases.

Since omicron is relatively mild, the difficulty for hospitals is more the sheer numbers than the degree of illness.

“The reduction in severity is being offset by the absolute numbers,” said Jacob Eichenberger at Children’s Hospital of Georgia in Augusta.

Inpatient numbers in Georgia and South Carolina haven’t reached peak pandemic levels, but Melanie Matney, the South Carolina Hospital Association’s chief operating officer, believes they could continue to rise.

“Right now we’re very, very high and we expect to be high for at least another couple weeks,” she said.

Georgia on Wednesday reported 5,400 COVID inpatients across the state, compared to 6,000 at the peak of the delta surge on Sept. 7 and 5,500 at the peak of the previous surge on Jan. 13, 2021.

In the Georgia portion of the CSRA on Wednesday, there were 313 COVID inpatients, compared to 398 at the height of the delta surge and that same number at the peak of the previous surge in January 2021.

The numbers are all headed upward at the major Augusta hospitals.

Augusta University Health saw an increase of 10 inpatients Wednesday to 125, eight of them pediatric. Doctors Hospital had 45 COVID inpatients Wednesday, an increase of one. And University Hospital saw an increase of 11 to 135 inpatients on Tuesday.

Children’s Hospital of Georgia, part of AU Health, has treated more patients in the 18 days of January than any other month in the pandemic.

“And that is being felt throughout the system with all levels. The hospital has a lot of cases and the ICU has a lot of cases,” Eichenberger said.

The surge is causing a volume-driven increase in the number of people who need to be in the intensive care unit. It’s not necessarily because the variant is making people sicker, according to Matney.

“The length of stay for this variant is a little shorter than it was for delta,” Matney said. “So we’re seeing a little bit more throughput through the hospitals. You know, people come in but then they can also return home on a fairly faster basis than they were with delta.”

Still, hospital workers are feeling pinched.

“You have this kind of nasty combination of more people needing care and more people getting sick, which also impacts our health care workers,” Matney said.

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