Gov. Kemp tours GWCC’s alternate care facility as local doctor warns of hospital tipping point

ATLANTA — More than 4,000 people in Georgia are in hospitals right now with coronavirus. Cases have been steadily rising.

Doctors said the signs point to even more people in hospitals in January.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there were nearly 6,000 news cases and 41 confirmed deaths.

Channel 2′s Carol Sbarge spoke to one doctor who is concerned about hospitals reaching a tipping point next month. That’s when any surge from the Christmas holiday will show up.

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“We are where we were predicting. We are on a pretty consistent upswing for the last 10 weeks setting record numbers in terms of new cases, infections, hospitalizations, death,” said Dr. Felipe Lobelo.

Lobelo, the physician director of epidemiology at Kaiser Permanente Georgia said right now that the hospital is more than 700 percent higher as far as hospitalizations since this surge first started in mid-October.

The positivity rate of those tested in Georgia during a 20-hour period this week was the highest one-day rate since early spring: 20.7 percent.

“That’s why we’re really pleading with folks to stay home and avoid gatherings and use your masks for this new year and next couple of weeks. We really are close to a tipping point,” Lobelo said.


Lobelo said that could mean shortages of beds in some hospitals and some having to cancel elective surgeries.

On Tuesday, Governor Brian Kemp toured the Georgia World Congress Centers’ recently reopened alternate care facility.

This is the third time the center has been used to treat patients. Kemp said the GWCC will be open through at least the end of January.

The 60 beds will assist with patient overflow from area hospitals.

Another part of the building is home to the $60 million worth of PPE just added to the state’s stockpile, funded by the CARES Act that the hospital systems are going to tap into.

“One thing we learned early on was these supplies can get very tight when you think about ventilators, PPE use,” Kemp said. “We did not want to run into that issue again.”

Right now, officials are expecting the facility being open through the end of January, but the need will really determine that.

Visitation is not allowed but the state is providing Wi-Fi and iPad devices to keep people connected to loved ones as they’re there.

Kemp said this operation, as it stands with outlook through January, is costing $16 to $18 million.

Kemp encouraged everyone to stick to the four things he has asked all year: wear your mask, socially distinct, follow healthcare guidelines and practice good hand hygiene.