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Oxygen supply near empty at some Georgia hospitals as more COVID patients admitted

Georgia Hospital Association says oxygen shortages are only impacting one part of the state, for now.

ATLANTA — COVID-19 hospitalizations officially surpassed January numbers in Georgia on Wednesday, as state officials worry the Delta variant could leave some hospitals dry of medical oxygen.

"I’m hopeful we don’t get to the that point when we’re making decisions about who gets oxygen and who doesn’t’…but dooms day scenario – that could happen," explained Anna Adams, with the Georgia Hospital Association.

Adams said hospitals in Georgia started seeing oxygen shortages two weeks ago, adding that the smaller more rural hospitals are struggling the most because they're not used to administering as much oxygen to so many patients.

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“They were running right up to what they would consider to be the deadline.  Saying 'we’re going to run out by 8:30pm and it’s 6 o’clock and we don’t have our shipments'," Adams said.

She says the need for oxygen was critical in south and southeast Georgia, the group reached out to the Governor's office last week. 

On Monday, Governor Brian Kemp announced that he would renew a waiver on truck weigh limits and how long drivers can be on the road in order to get more oxygen to hospitals quicker.

In the meantime, Adams said bigger hospitals in the metro Atlanta are are offering advice to more rural hospitals on how to conserve oxygen.

“One of the biggest techniques is to remind hospitals that not every patient needs to be on high flow oxygen," Adams added.

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As of Wednesday, COVID-19 patients represent 33% of all hospitalizations, according to state data. ICU beds are now at 94% capacity statewide. 

The worst region for COVID-19 hospitalizations remains in south Georgia where about 60% of their patients are suffering from the virus. 

Last week, the White House created a FEMA task force solely dedicated to oxygen. The move came after vendors like Premier Inc, a company that manages supplies for hospitals in Georgia and across the southeast alerted officials to the shortage.

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