ATLANTA — Georgia's Department of Public Health on Thursday pleaded with residents of the state to "reduce strain on EMS and emergency departments" as hospitals are stretched by the current COVID-19 surge to "unprecedented levels."
There are more than 5,500 COVID patients currently hospitalized in Georgia, just shy of the state's record back in January and currently second-most in the nation, according to the most recent White House COVID report.
In a release issued Thursday, DPH said that burden is causing many hospitals to declare they are diversion, "meaning they are temporarily unable to provide normal emergency care to patients arriving by ambulance."
DPH is requesting that individuals seeking COVID testing not go to a hospital amid the current strain on resources.
The agency's release said that diversion "is a term specific to ambulance transports and is a request to ambulances to transport patients to other local facilities if possible" and "does not apply to individuals seeking emergency medical care."
DPH advises that people experiencing a medical emergency should still call 911.
The state coordinating center maintains a website with the current statuses of hospitals, showing dozens on varying levels of diversion.
Grady Health System in Fulton County, one of the largest healthcare systems in the state, is on total diversion. Among other large Atlanta healthcare providers, Northside Atlanta and Piedmont Atlanta are both on ER diversion, and Emory Midtown is on ICU/CCU diversion.
On Thursday, Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Coweta County became the first metro Atlanta hospital to publicly state they were seeking combat medics being made available by the governor.
The hospital said it needed help with "high numbers of COVID-19 patients, largely unvaccinated and requiring a higher level of care."
DPH says that vaccines are available across the state and are "our best tool for ending this pandemic and reducing the overwhelming strain on EMS, the healthcare system and healthcare providers."
The agency directs Georgians to https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine to find a vaccination location.