Savannah hospitals face influx of COVID cases; numbers almost doubled in last week

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As expected, Savannah hospitals are seeing a big influx in COVID-19 patients. The number of admissions is up more than 20 percent since Friday.

At Memorial Health, the number of COVID patients was 67 Monday, compared with 36 last week. Twenty-one of those 67 patients are in the ICU.

“We have seen a notable rise in cases over the last week, reflecting the rising number of cases in our region,” said Dr. Stephen Thacker, associate chief medical officer with Memorial Health.

Thacker said Memorial Health has seen a slight increase in admissions with young patients.

And the majority of hospitalizations are in unvaccinated individuals, he added.

“Recent data suggests outcomes may be worse with this patient population at this time, especially for those unvaccinated,” Thacker explained, “A continuing reminder of the benefits vaccination against COVID-19 provides.”

Admissions at St. Joseph’s/Candler numbered 59 Monday, compared with 32 the week before. CEO Paul Hinchey said they never really ramped down when cases slowed to a halt in May.

“So we more or less stopped in the marathon, got a glass of water and then got back on the track again,” said Hinchey.

He says the facility continued COVID protocols and has stockpiled six months of protective equipment.

“We didn’t go into a dormant state when cases went down because it was too early for that, and we wanted to see it much more sustainable,” said Hinchey. “So we’re in a state of readiness, staffing-wise, equipment-wise and bed-wise.”

Hinchey said cases went down to no COVID patients hospitalized at their facility in May — but added officials had doubts that vaccination levels would reach 70 percent by July.

He says more people getting vaccine shots might certainly have made a difference now.

“Out of the 59 in here today, 77 percent of them are unvaccinated, and that’s what we’ve been averaging,” said Hinchey.

He was also clear that 23 percent of those hospitalized have had the vaccine but said all of those patients, have serious underlying health conditions.

Hinchey also says the average age of COVID patients at the facility is now 53 years old versus 64 years old last year.

“To drop the mean index 10 years is significant, and so it is affecting a much younger population,” Hinchey said.

He also urged those who have not gotten the vaccine to consider doing so. He says younger people who’ve not been vaccinated may survive after being hospitalized but could face complications from COVID down the road.

“You don’t want to fool around with being a (COVID) long-hauler,” said Hinchey.

“If you don’t get the vaccine and you come down with COVID, you are rolling the dice,” he added. “There could be collateral damage to your immune system from COVID. We don’t know everything about the virus, and it’s going to be in your system for a while.”

Hinchey also says for those who get vaccinated now who are younger and healthier, “their chances of dying are dramatically decreased and rebounding is going to be faster if they get the vaccine.”

Finally, Hinchey says he’s concerned about his medical staff who have dealt with COVID for the past 17 months.

“I think some of them are having a hard time trying to understand why more people are not getting vaccinated,” he said.

“We’ll be able to take care of the public, but you know, the rubber band on these caregivers has really been stretched in terms of their emotional and even physical health,” he said.

Hinchey says his facility has enough beds and ventilators at this time. He says this time around, COVID patients are not going into the ICU or on a ventilator at the same rate as last year.

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