Metro Atlanta hospitals report packed emergency rooms as COVID-19 cases surge

ATLANTA — Several metro Atlanta emergency rooms are currently reporting issues with overcrowding and are being forced to turn away patients.

Cases of COVID-19 are skyrocketing in Georgia due to the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant, which is causing the sudden surge, according to local nurses and doctors.

Channel 2′s Ashli Lincoln was at Grady Memorial Hospital, where people were waiting outside of the emergency room because of crowds.

Doctors and nurses told Lincoln that the sharp increase in COVID-19 patients are having them turn away emergency room patients that arrive by foot, car or ambulance.

According to a state database, Grady Hospital, as well as several locations within the Wellstar, Piedmont and Emory hospital systems, were all on ER diversion and not accepting ambulances at various points on Sunday.

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Several of those hospitals were also listed as being near capacity in the ICU and were listed as having severely busy emergency rooms.

Others were diverting obstetric, psychiatric and NICU patients.


Lincoln spoke to an ER nurse who didn’t want to be identified, but said the increase in patients is drastic compared to the beginning of the pandemic.

“Right now, this delta variant is really highly contagious,” she said. “It hits so quick here. The original pandemic, it took its time and worked its way up. Now, it’s a lot of people at one time.”

Hospitals were so overcrowded Sunday that ambulances were diverted to lesser occupied hospitals.

For people waiting to be treated for things other than COVID, the nurse Lincoln spoke to said to avoid the ER.

“If there is an urgent care where they can be seen at, I encourage them to get themselves seen there, so COVID patients could have first priority,” Lincoln said.

Earlier this week, we spoke to the director of Wellstar’s Health Systems, Dr. Danny Branstetter. He said most patients ending up in the hospital are not vaccinated.

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

The seven-day average of cases in Georgia have climbed more than 700% in the past month.

Currently, 82.9% of hospital beds are full in Georgia.

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Channel 2 Action News has reached out to the city’s other major hospitalizations more information on the status of their emergency and ICU departments.