Metro hospitals filling up again as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across Georgia

ATLANTA — Doctors across metro Atlanta say the increase we’re seeing in COVID-19 cases is happening faster than previous spikes during the pandemic.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray took the numbers to a doctor who used the word “drastic” when describing the increase.

Wellstar Health System’s medical director, Dr. Danny Branstetter, said Georgia has not seen cases increase this fast at any time in the pandemic.

Concerns about that rise are why some people Gray met here at a free vaccination site at Antioch Baptist Church said they changed their mind about vaccination.

“I was skeptical, and I was telling everyone it can’t touch me,” said Roderick Brooks.

Brooks said he initially wasn’t concerned about COVID-19 and was not going to get the vaccine. But he went to the free walk-up vaccination site Wednesday after the virus put him in the hospital for two weeks earlier this summer.

“What made me decide to get the vaccine is I actually caught the virus,” Brooks said.

According to the latest numbers from the Georgia Department of Public Health, the seven-day average of new cases is up more than 700% in the past month and is continuing to climb at a rate the medical that Branstetter said is unprecedented.

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“Dramatic is the right word. These slopes of increases in our infection is the highest we’ve seen. Even compared to other surges back in January or December timeframe, or even last summer,” Branstetter said.

Hospitalizations are up too. Regions northwest of Atlanta, including Cobb and Cherokee counties, are running particularly low on hospital beds at 95% of their capacity.

But Branstetter said every hospital in the state is feeling the surge.

“If you are in the viewership area of this broadcast, you are in a hotspot,” Branstetter said.

Vaccinations in Georgia are still lagging the rest of the country with 46% of all Georgians having one shot, but the state ticked up from 40% t0 41% for fully vaccinated people.

State data from the end of July shows that fewer than 1% -- only .002% of those who have been vaccinated in Georgia -- have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

“What’s really driving this is the unvaccinated. There’s no question about it. The overwhelming majority, 90 plus percent or more in our hospitals that require hospitalizations, are unvaccinated,” Branstetter said.

The rise in cases is also behind Henry County’s decision to issue a state of emergency.

Only 35% of residents there are vaccinated against the virus.

With the emergency declaration, people across Henry County have to wear masks in county facilities, but it also allows the county’s emergency management director the ability to spend money on COVID-19 related emergencies.

“It’s to heighten awareness about the situation right now with increasing numbers of COVID positive cases,” Henry County Public Information Director Melissa Robinson said.

“If you don’t get it for yourself, get it because someone else might love you and want to keep you around awhile,” Brooks said.

“It’s really concerning because I was so hopeful, we would’ve been at the end. So, I’m concerned it’s probably going to be a second phase of it,” parent Rea Kelly said.

Branstetter said they are seeing much younger patients in the ICU this time around because the Delta variant is afflicting young, healthy people with severe illness.

Channel 2′s Kristen Holloway contributed to this article.

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