Columbus continues seeing record high COVID cases. But how are hospitals doing?

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Columbus’ two hospitals are managing an influx of patients from the COVID-19 surge this month as new cases in the city reach pandemic highs.

On Friday, Muscogee County reported 4,335 new COVID cases in the last two weeks at a rate of 2,262 cases per 100,000 people, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. This case rate is the third highest of the pandemic for Muscogee County.

Jan. 19 and Jan. 20 have the pandemic’s highest case rates for the county with 4,734 cases and 4,544 cases, respectively.

During the Columbus Council Jan. 11 meeting, Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson said patients with COVID-19 are “absorbing a lot of the beds in our hospitals,” with around 120 beds filled.

St. Francis-Emory Healthcare is treating 49 COVID-19 positive patients, spokesperson Grant Farrimond said in an email this week to the Ledger-Enquirer. Slightly less than half of those patients are unvaccinated.

The majority of patients hospitalized at Piedmont Healthcare are unvaccinated, spokesperson Jessica Roberts said.

Vaccinations remain the best tool to prevent hospitalizations and severe illness, writes Dr. Chris Edwards, chief medical officer at Piedmont Columbus Regional, in an op-ed sent to the Ledger-Enquirer.

New antiviral outpatient treatments that prevent hospitalization have been developed, he wrote, but their availability is limited.

“For those of us that manage hospitalized COVID patients daily, it is very clear that the vaccine is still effective in preventing severe COVID illness,” Edwards wrote.

The omicron variant so far has caused less severe infections and fewer people are on ventilators and in the ICU, Henderson said. But hospitals are having to balance COVID patients with an increase in people going to hospitals for non-COVID needs.

At Piedmont Columbus Regional, the surgery schedule is assessed daily and adjustments are made as necessary to balance the needs of the surgical patients and the condition of the hospital census, Roberts said.

“We have postponed cases in some circumstances,” she said. “But we continue to be able to perform the vast majority of surgical cases thus far in this 5th wave.”

MedCare on Whitesville Rd is offering rapid and PCR COVID-19 tests in Columbus, Ga. on Jan. 3, 2022.
MedCare on Whitesville Rd is offering rapid and PCR COVID-19 tests in Columbus, Ga. on Jan. 3, 2022.

Some council members attended last week’s meeting virtually after Henderson reinstated a local state of public health emergency on Jan. 10 that authorized Council, boards and commissions of the Columbus Consolidated Government to meet by video or teleconference.

Henderson recently told the Ledger-Enquirer that he is not considering further COVID-19 restrictions or policies, like a mask mandate.

During the Jan. 11 meeting, Henderson encouraged residents to social distance, wash hands and wear masks. Residents who are unvaccinated should speak with their doctor and get vaccinated if their doctor tells them it is safe to do so.

Here are the latest COVID-19 trends in Muscogee and Harris counties, according to DPH.

Muscogee County

Before the omicron variant emerged, the highest case rate reported in Muscogee County occurred Jan. 11, 2021, with 1,631 cases in a two-week period at a rate of 851 cases per 100,000 people.

There have been 12 deaths from COVID-19 in the county this month. Since the start of the pandemic, Muscogee County has reported 29,066 coronavirus cases and 604 deaths.

In the last two weeks, 39% of COVID tests in the county were positive with 19,499 PCR tests administered.

As of Jan. 21, 47% of Muscogee County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while 41% are fully vaccinated. Additionally, 15% of residents have received an additional dose of the vaccine.

Harris County

Harris County reported 812 new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks at a rate of 2,339 cases per 100,000 people on Jan. 21.

On Friday, Harris County reported one death this month. The county has reported 4,598 cases and 87 deaths since the pandemic began.

Among Harris County residents, 49% have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 44% are fully vaccinated and 16% have received an additional dose of the vaccine.

There were 3,949 new PCR tests reported in the last two weeks, and Harris County’s test positivity rate in that time period is 42.4%.

Georgia update

Total cases: 1,726,969 (+89,484 reported since Jan. 15). The number of new cases reported in a day may not match the difference in total cases over a 24-hour period. This occurs because previously reported cases may be removed as duplicate reports are corrected. An older confirmed case may also be reclassified as additional information is collected during an investigation.

Vaccination Rate: 62% of Georgians have received at least one dose of the COVID-19, 54% are fully vaccinated and 19% have received an additional dose.

Total deaths: 27,037 (+299 deaths since Jan. 15). It’s important to note that these numbers indicate when deaths are reported to the Georgia Department of Public Health. It does not reflect when these deaths occurred.

Positivity rate for Georgia today: The rate over the past two weeks is 30.6% positive in the last two weeks.

Current COVID hospitalizations: 316 hospitalizations reported on Jan. 21

More information about COVID-19 data in Georgia can be found on DPH’s COVID-19 status website.

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