COVID-19 cases up for hospital, EMTs

  • Habersham Medical Center
    Habersham Medical Center

   Habersham Medical has seen an increase lately in COVID-19 testing and positive cases.

   There have been 143 hospitalizations of Habersham County residents since the pandemic began, according to data from the Department of Public Health. 

   There have been 17,544 hospitalizations across the state of Georgia, where 3,563 have died out of 175,052 confirmed cases.

   “At any given time on a daily basis, we are seeing (between) 2 and 7 COVID positive patients on average and an additional 3 to 9 admitted patients who are suspected positives, awaiting results,” HMC spokesperson Kesha Clinkscale said.

   Habersham County Emergency Services Director Chad Black said his personnel have been dealing with a surge in cases as well.

   “We are seeing the last two weeks an increase for both scene calls and transfers from Habersham Medical, with both positive patients and those with symptoms who have not been tested,” Black said Monday. 

   HMC did not receive any of the additional supply of remdesivir distributed around the state.

   “The criteria and rationing approaches are determined by state agencies,” Clinkscale said.

   Monday’s data showed that Habersham County was approaching 1,000 cases since the pandemic began in February. The county has reported 961 cases and 48 deaths. 

   The DPH lists the age of those who have died from COVID-19, and only five of those in Habersham County were under the age of 60, including the two most recent deaths (53 and 54). It also only lists patients who are 90 or older as “90+,” which means the average age of Habersham’s deceased patients is 77.9, if one assumes all 13 of those were exactly 90, which they were not. 

   The true ages would push that average closer to 79 or 80.

   Georgia hospital and healthcare leaders pushed a top U.S. health official and U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler Monday for more federal funding amid a recent surge in COVID-19 cases.

   At a roundtable talk in Atlanta, representatives from the state’s largest hospitals and nursing home associations detailed growing concerns over maintaining care and curbing infections due to tight finances, difficulty procuring test kits and health disparities in minority communities.

   They laid out challenges with retaining hospital and nursing staff, receiving enough sanitization materials and keeping seniors in long-term care facilities from becoming depressed due to prolonged isolation as the virus continues battering Georgia.

   More federal funds for healthcare providers in a second round of coronavirus relief will be critical to fend off a large increase in positive cases and intensive-care hospitalizations over the past month, several hospital executives said Monday.

   “Anything we can get is important because the financial burden, especially in hot spots, has been really tremendous on healthcare centers and hospitals,” said Dr. Jonathan Lewin, president and CEO of Emory Healthcare in Atlanta.

   Monday’s talk was hosted by Loeffler, R-Ga., and Seema Verma, administrator of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

   Verma, the federal Medicaid administrator, said her agency has started sending “point-of-care” test kits to nursing homes across the country to conduct COVID-19 tests for residents and staff inside facilities rather than off-site. Around 1,000 kits have already been sent, she said.

   Verma called those kits a “game changer” that would help elderly-care facilities curb infection rates so that residents can begin interacting with each other at a safe distance and potentially receiving visitors.

   Habersham Home did not receive any of the point-of-care tests, Clinkscale said. 

   Habersham Home has seen 54 staff members test positive along with 64 residents, 16 of whom died. The Oaks Nursing Home in Baldwin saw 46 staff members and 104 residents test positive, with 21 deaths.

   Beau Evans contributed to this article. Evans is a reporter with the Capitol Beat News Service, which is funded by the Georgia Education Foundation.