SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As federal officials push to get people across the country vaccinated, hospitals in Chatham County say they’re focusing on those with compromised immune systems.
On Tuesday, Memorial Health reported its highest number on record of COVID-19 admissions. The associate chief medical officer said they believe the only way to keep businesses open and kids in school is to get communities vaccinated and masked.
“How do you bring folks to the table that have not pursued vaccination yet at all, haven’t even gotten their first dose?” asked Dr. Stephen Thacker.
“I think it is again reaching out to them, recognizing their concerns, giving them a voice and giving them someone who can give trusted advice to them about their benefits,” he said, “and then imploring to everybody in the community that a vaccination is never just about you, it’s about protecting yourself, your family and your entire community.”
On Wednesday, the hospital had 127 COVID-19 patients; 36 of them were in the intensive care unit.
Thacker said hospital staff is exhausted.
“The reality is we’re going to be talking about variants for this virus for likely years to come until we have a global solution for vaccination,” Thacker added. “Because these variants will come up, some will be harmful to us, some will spread quicker, and some may be both.”
Memorial Health staff said they were seeing an increase in the number of pediatric and neonatal admissions. Doctors said the surge in childhood cases could likely be linked to a lack of guidance in school mask mandates.
“All of them either did not encourage masking or made it very optional, and I think we’re seeing some of the consequences of that,” said Thacker.
“That said, every school, whether they’re masking or not, has to have layered approaches to protection,” he continued, “focusing on how we keep kids distanced, making sure families hear the messages that we shouldn’t send our kids to school sick, and make sure they have access to testing.
“I have a 13-year-old son who I vaccinated as soon as it was available, and it was definitely the right choice to make because it helps myself and my wife and my family have confidence he is more protected.”
Memorial Health is hosting pop-up vaccine clinics at its Children’s Hospital (4700 Waters Avenue) every Thursday from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
The goal is to offer access in a child and family-friendly environment. Staff said they’ll hold the clinic as long as there is a need in the community.