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North Georgia hospitals at 95 percent capacity as COVID-19 cases continue

Hospital officials say it's not beds they need most, but medicine and staffing.

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Two hospitals in north Georgia are close to running out of patient beds, largely driven by new COVID-19 cases.

This week, administrators for Northeast Georgia Medical Center Hospitals in Gainesville and Braselton said they are treating more people for the virus than ever before. Both facilities are at about 95 percent capacity.

Dr. John Delzell is the incident commander for the hospital system and is leading its COVID-19 response.

"As we start to reach our capacity with our hospital and critical care beds, that becomes a concern because those patients don't have anywhere to go," explained Delzell. 

RELATED: Coronavirus in Georgia | Latest numbers for July 29

In June, Hall County averaged about 23 new COVID-19 infections a day. So far this month, the daily average has more than doubled. Hospitalizations have followed suit. The graph below shows that upward trend.

Credit: WXIA

In May, state officials built a mobile medical unit outside its Gainesville facility, adding 20 more beds. Now, it’s not more space that’s needed - it’s medicine, testing and critical care staff. The hospital is treating 102 patients sick with the virus.

"We can create more rooms, critical care beds, that sort of thing," Delzell said. "But if we don't have nurses, if we don't have respiratory therapists, if we don't have the physicians to care of them, that doesn't really help us much."

The doctor said his hospitals, as well as others, need more of the drug remdesivir, which has proven to be an effective treatment for COVID. Forty-three percent of the hospitals ventilators are currently in use.

READ | The full response from Northeast Georgia Health System 

Testing capacity has increased, but now delayed results are a worry. Right now, results from its hospitals and private labs are taking up to four days. Delzell said he would like to see that time shortened. As of Wednesday, 94 of its patients were waiting for results.

He added he is worried not enough people are taking the virus seriously and will grow complacent as some schools start to reopen. 

“It’s real and it’s concerning," Delzell said. 

Dr. Delzell’s added he’s also concerned with his medical staff’s mental health, not necessarily their day-to-day duties caring for patients, but the inability to see a light at the end of the tunnel for any relief. 

“It’s the stress of this going on for a long time,” he said.

His advice to the public was the same he gives his loved ones every day: stay at home, don’t go out and wear a mask.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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