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COVID surge impacts Georgia's healthcare workers

A growing number of healthcare workers are getting sick themselves.

ATLANTA — It's difficult for healthcare workers to deal with another flood of COVID patients when a growing number of caretakers are getting sick themselves. 

Some hospital staff claim the surge caused by omicron is the worst they've seen yet. While the vaccine keeps most employees from getting severely sick, it doesn't keep them from missing work.

Frontline doctors said if things keep progressing at the current pace, we may be in for a repeat of history. 

"I think we've seen nothing yet. In about a week – we're going to see the true impact of what omicron is doing," emergency room doctor Dr. Mehrdod Ehteshami said.

At the start of 2021, COVID hospitalizations and case count numbers reached record highs, ultimately earning the title of the 2021 Winter Surge.

As the omicron variant rages on at the start of 2022, some healthcare workers said they feel a sense of Déjà vu.

"Could anyone predict that we would be back here today, I'm not quite sure, but now that we're back here – we're trying to give the best quality care we can. It's going to be hard and take time but we're trying," said Dr. Trey Robinson, assistant professor at Emory Medicine and emergency physician at Grady Hospital.

The Georgia Department of Public Health's latest data demonstrates just how fast the omicron variant is spreading. Just over 3,000 people were currently hospitalized as of Dec. 31. Healthcare workers are not being spared either. 

"Healthcare workers are just human, so the numbers for the general population also impact us," Ehteshami said.

For the first half of the month, the department of public health showed an average of 30 cases of COVID a day among Georgia healthcare workers. 

So far in the second half of the month, that number has more than quadrupled, with 155 cases per day. According to experts, that number is likely to grow as data is still being collected from the last two weeks. 

"It's taking me back to that moment that any day if I mess up while treating patients – I too could become infected and have to quarantine and we're already short staffed as it is," Robinson said. 

While the case count among health care workers is spiking, it still hasn't reached the levels we saw last year at this time or in the summer months when the delta variant surged.