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3 takeaways from COVID-19 webinar: Hospitalizations, vaccination rates and incentives
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The Northeast Georgia Health System is sponsoring coverage directly related to public safety so that it can be made available free to non-subscribers as a public service. News coverage is independently reported. We know that you need accurate and up-to-date information about the effects of the coronavirus in the state and our region. Please consider supporting our work by subscribing to The Times.

A year ago, Northeast Georgia Health System incident commander Dr. John Delzell and others were managing the hospital during the downhill side of the first peak of COVID-19 cases.

Delzell said the decrease in COVID-19 cases has given the health system’s staff “some real clear respite from all of the stress that they’ve been under for this last year and several months.”

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce hosted a webinar Tuesday, May 25, to hear updates from NGHS officials on the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts to vaccinate residents. Here are three takeaways from the discussion.

COVID cases down, and patients shouldn’t delay care

NGHS had 23 confirmed COVID-19 positive patients receiving care across its facilities Tuesday with another 29 patients awaiting test results. The Gainesville hospital had 18 of those confirmed positive patients. At the height of the pandemic, the system was treating more than 300 with COVID.

“What we’ve seen is the cases that are coming to the emergency room (and) the people that are sick with COVID have declined as the percentage that are out there in the community that have it has gone down,” Delzell said.

Delzell said the health system may open up visitation even further at the end of this week. The doctor, however, was still concerned about patients potentially waiting or delaying getting treatments at the hospital.

“As a family doctor, too many times I see people who’ve waited because they’re worried, and it just allows things to get worse,” Delzell said. “Their diabetes gets further out of control because they don’t get their medicine refilled or they don’t get their regular follow-up.”

Hall vaccination trails state stats

NGHS has administered 18,636 first doses of either Moderna or Pfizer as of Tuesday.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 38% of Georgia residents have at least one dose, and 31% of residents are considered fully vaccinated.

District 2 Public Health Director Dr. Zachary Taylor mentioned how Hall County is behind in vaccination, with only 30% of Hall residents with at least one dose and 25% of residents fully vaccinated.

In neighboring Forsyth County, 40% of the county’s residents have at least one dose and 33% of residents are fully vaccinated.

The Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorization for Pfizer May 10 to allow vaccination for those ages 12 through 15. Previously, only people 16 and older were eligible for the vaccine.

Northeast Georgia Physicians Group is hosting a clinic 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 27, in the Gainesville High School gymnasium.

“We’re hopeful that will have a large number of school-age kids over 12 that want to participate in that, and we’d like to partner with any other schools in the area as well,” said Bobby Norris, vice president of operations for NGPG.

Public health open to incentives for vaccination

The participants in the webinar were asked about what incentives have been offered to people to entice them toward vaccination. 

Statewide, free tickets to Braves and Atlanta United games have been offered to those participating in certain vaccination clinics. And Krispy Kreme was an early entry into the incentives, offering free doughnuts to those who can show their vaccine card.

The Times previously reported that some Hall County judges during sentencing are offering credit for community service hours for those who get vaccinated.

“If any business wants to give us incentives that we can give people to get vaccinated, we’d love to do that and we’ll be glad to distribute them,” Taylor said. “If local restaurants or other businesses want to give out gift cards or whatever, we’ll take them.”

Taylor said they have not received any funding toward that purpose and are prohibited from using funds currently allocated toward any type of incentive.

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