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Northeast Georgia Health System is preparing an overflow treatment space as it hit another new record of COVID-19-positive patients on Wednesday, Dec. 9.
The system was treating 217 COVID-19 patients on Wednesday, its highest number since the pandemic began and the fourth day over 200 in a week’s time.
At the health system’s Braselton and Barrow hospitals, no beds were open Wednesday. Northeast Georgia Medical Center Gainesville had 24 available beds, with only one bed in the intensive care unit available and another 100 occupied.
Dr. Clifton Hastings, chief of medical staff at NGMC, said patients who are less critical are sometimes transferred to the Barrow or Lumpkin hospitals. The system is preparing an overflow treatment space in a gym at Laurelwood, a mental health facility on the NGMC Gainesville campus, Hastings said. About 25 to 30 cots will be moved into Laurelwood, and that space will hopefully open next week, Hastings said.
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“We are seeing the surge that was predicted. We are weathering it but we really don’t have any capacity at this point,” Hastings said on a call with the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday. “We’re just making do. … It’s a pretty significant situation that we’re dealing with.”
NGMC Gainesville already has a mobile unit near its North Tower with 20 beds. The Gainesville and Braselton hospitals have tents outside for extra treatment space.
NGHS announced new visitation policies for its hospitals Wednesday. For COVID-19 patients, the system changed visitation from three days a week to just Saturday.
As of Wednesday, Hall County has seen 13,614 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 1,475 of those cases have been reported within the past two weeks, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. There have been 1,331 hospitalizations in Hall County, according to the state.
Dr. Zachary Taylor, director for District 2 of the health department, said the surge seems to be driven by smaller gatherings of extended family and friends. There have also been some outbreaks at long-term care facilities and places of worship, he said.
“It is not connected to any particular ethnic group or race. It is all over,” Taylor said Wednesday.
In most cases, students do not appear to be contracting COVID-19 from school, Taylor said.
“Obviously, we have cases in our schools, but frankly, most of the cases we see in students at school, those students were infected in the community,” Taylor said. “They weren’t infected in the schools, and schools are doing a good job at preventing transmission.”
Four Hall County schools have canceled in-person instruction in the past week, and a school system spokesman has said the system believes transmission occurred on those school campuses.