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COVID Creates ‘A Public Health Crisis’ in Northwest Georgia

On Monday, Hamilton Medical Center reported 62 COVID-19 patients, with 58, or 94%, unvaccinated. It had 14 of those patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), with 13, or 93%, unvaccinated. And nine were on ventilators, all unvaccinated.

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(TNS) - Healthcare leaders from across Northwest Georgia have come together with a message for the area’s residents: COVID-19 “vaccines work. They are safe and they prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please protect yourself, your loved ones and your community by doing so.”

In a joint letter to the public, North Georgia Health District Director Dr. Zachary Taylor, based in Dalton, and Northwest Georgia Health District Director Dr. Gary Voccio, based in Rome, joined Hamilton Health Care System President and CEO Jeff Myers, AdventHealth Southeast Region CEO Mike Murrill, Floyd Health System CEO Kurt Stuenkel, Harbin Clinic CEO Kenna Stock, Piedmont Cartersville Medical Center CEO Chris Mosley and Redmond Regional Medical Center CEO John Quinlivan in urging people to get vaccinated for and take other precautions against COVID-19.

“COVID-19 vaccination is our best tool for reducing the overwhelming strain on our healthcare system, healthcare providers and EMS personnel,” they wrote in the letter.

Data provided by the North Georgia Health District, which includes Whitfield, Murray, Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties, show that between May 26 and Sept. 6 the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped to 60,246 from 49,089. The number of hospitalizations rose to 3,526 from 2,991 and the number of deaths rose to 924 from 824.

“This is an important moment in our communities,” said Taylor. “COVID-19 is now a disease of unvaccinated persons and the way out of this pandemic is vaccination. Our community needs to increase the rate of vaccinations to protect each other, especially the more vulnerable persons in our community.”

On Monday, Hamilton Medical Center reported 62 COVID-19 patients, with 58, or 94%, unvaccinated. It had 14 of those patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), with 13, or 93%, unvaccinated. And nine were on ventilators, all unvaccinated.

Jennifer King, public information officer for the North Georgia Health District, said Tuesday afternoon she did not have exact numbers but in hospitals across the health district “the vast majority” of patients are unvaccinated.

“Today, only 35% of citizens in Northwest Georgia are fully vaccinated, leaving the unvaccinated highly vulnerable to contracting and spreading COVID-19,” the letter said. “While a few municipalities have declared a state of emergency, if you look across the regional healthcare landscape, there is no mistaking that we are experiencing a public health crisis.”

The Floyd County Emergency Management Agency said that as of Tuesday Floyd Medical Center had 119 confirmed COVID-19 patients and Redmond Regional Medical Center had 80 confirmed COVID-19 patients.

“COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased dramatically and are straining our hospitals,” the letter said. “Deaths, which can lag hospitalizations by a few weeks, are increasing significantly, leaving families broken and torn apart and front-line workers physically and emotionally exhausted.”

“Breakthrough infections — fully vaccinated individuals becoming infected — do happen, but most cases are relatively mild,” the letter said. “Studies of over 4.5 million fully vaccinated Georgians show that the fully vaccinated are at low risk of becoming infected and at almost no risk of being hospitalized or dying.

“Cases and hospitalizations among school-aged children have increased to levels not yet seen in the pandemic. We are seeing the highest number of weekly outbreaks in our schools since the pandemic began. This is preventable because many in this group are eligible for vaccination.

“Individuals only seeking COVID-19 testing should not go to hospital emergency departments or call EMS unless experiencing urgent or emergent symptoms such as severe respiratory distress, stroke symptoms, trauma, etc. Please help us keep our hospital emergency departments open so we can treat medical emergencies.”

The letter “strongly” urges “everyone age 12 and older to get vaccinated, wear a mask in public settings where social distancing is not possible and wash their hands frequently.”

To find a vaccination location, visit www.vaccines.gov.

The city of Dalton will offer vaccinations Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Convention Center. An appointment is not required.

COVID-19 testing is available at most urgent care, primary care and pharmacy locations. Information about testing is available at www.DPH.Georgia.gov and www.NGHD.org.

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(c)2021 The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.)

Visit The Daily Citizen (Dalton, Ga.) at daltondailycitizen.com

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