Hospital in Gainesville bracing for peak of COVID-19 as hot spot forms in Hall County

Hall County has the highest per-capita rate for confirmed COVID cases in north Georgia. While Georgia begins to reopen, the Gainesville area is just trying to breathe.

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — One of Georgia’s current hot spots in during the coronavirus pandemic is Hall County. The hospital in Gainesville doesn't expect a peak of COVID-19 cases there until mid-June.

Hall County has the highest per-capita rate for confirmed COVID cases in north Georgia. While Georgia begins to reopen, the Gainesville area is just trying to breathe.

Different medical and political experts told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas that the high numbers are because of the volume of poultry plants and the makeup of the community.

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One of those factors has to do with a concentrated number of cases in Hispanic community in the that area.

“We've seen an increase in our community in regards to quarantine or sick in the last couple of weeks, especially this last week,” said Vanessa Sarazua, head of the Gainesville-base Latino Alliance.

That's being felt at Northeast Georgia Medical Center where 153 COVID-19 patients are currently being treated with dozens more waiting for test results.

Hospital models show the area won't hit its peak until mid-June, weeks after the facility hits critical staffing levels.

“It definitely is daunting. It's one of those things that you become numb after a while,” said Dr. Clifton Hastings, chief of medical staff at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

The hot spot has caught the attention of the governor. The hospital said an additional 30 nurses arrived Wednesday. Officials told Thomas that more doctors and intensive care unit beds are on the way.

“We can't afford to let our guard down,” said John King, insurance commissioner for the state of Georgia.

King, who grew up in Mexico, was dispatched to a poultry plant earlier this week.

He said he was impressed with the safety measures but had a message for workers when they leave the plant.

“What are you doing at home. Are you going to church and congregating? Those are things that are putting you at risk -- going to the park and large gatherings,” King said.

“The hope is the curve will change,” Clifton said.

The hospital said its use of ventilators is at about 40% to 45% right now.

But there is good news. In all this, 306 patients so far have recovered at Northeast Georgia Medical Center and are now home, leaving behind beds for this continued surge.