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Georgia hospitals filling with younger COVID patients in serious and critical condition

Doctors say cases are increasing daily as the Delta variant easily infects the unvaccinated, who comprise nearly all of the hospitalized COVID patients.

ATLANTA — The COVID resurgence is filling hospitals across Georgia, once again.

On Wednesday, August 4, for example, there were nearly 2,800 COVID patients in hospitals in Georgia, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

That number was more than six times higher than on July 4, when there were 450 COVID patients in Georgia hospitals.

And the hospitalization numbers keep growing, as cases keep rising, almost entirely among the unvaccinated.

And there is no sign of any slow-down, yet.

So, Wednesday was a rough day for COVID patients in Georgia, and it was a rough day for E.R. doctors and nurses, with many more rough days to come.

“I am, alongside with the rest of my colleagues in the E.R., the majority of us are just exhausted,” said Dr. Mehrdod Ehteshami Wednesday night after just getting home from work.

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Dr. Ehteshami is an E.R. physician in Metro Atlanta.

He said that, unlike prior to the Delta variant, he is seeing serious COVID cases in otherwise healthy younger people—people in their 30s, and in children.

“What I’m seeing now, unlike in February,” Dr. Ehteshami said, “was that, today, for example, I saw several patients in their 30s and 40s, and pediatric cases, as well, cases that were not severe back in February, but I’m seeing, definitely, moderate to severe cases now.  With this particular (Delta) variant, we’re seeing a lot of cases of just severe outcomes, severe symptoms in patients that otherwise would not be severe.”

Dr. Cherie Drenzek, state epidemiologist with the Georgia Department of Public Health, said that out of the 2,800 COVID patients hospitalized in Georgia as of Wednesday, so far nearly every one of them — with the exception of well-under one-half of one-percent of them -- is unvaccinated, including children (who can’t be vaccinated, yet) who have severe cases caused by the Delta variant.

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“This Delta spread is very different than essentially the pandemic version we were dealing with one summer ago,” Dr. Drenzek said, “it behaves much, much differently.”

She said in each of the past two weeks in Georgia, there has been a 100 percent increase in COVID cases among children ages five to 17, and many more of the cases are more severe than they might have been prior to the emergence of the Delta variant.

“With Delta, and how transmissible it is and how contagious it is, and how these case numbers are really just surging,” Dr. Drenzek said, “I don’t think we should be complacent and think that children won’t be infected. Because they are being infected.”

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But she said people who are eligible for the vaccinations can stop or slow the Delta variant from spreading, if they get the shots.

About 41 percent of Georgia’s population, on average, is vaccinated.

So, for example, in the six counties in northwest Georgia, where vaccination rates are lower than the state average, 23 percent of the hospital patients have COVID.

By contrast, for example, in three counties in Metro Atlanta -- Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties -- where vaccination rates are higher than the state average, just 13 percent of the hospital patients have COVID.

RELATED: COVID in Georgia | Latest numbers for August 4, 2021

“It’s frustrating,” Dr. Ehteshami said, for doctors and nurses treating the increasing populations of COVID patients who are flooding the E.R.s and ICUs.

“Everybody is just angry, and the reason for that is that we have somewhat of a part of a solution, at least. And it’s really hard to look at somebody who you know is dying when they didn’t have to be. That’s the part that makes this incredibly difficult, that we had solutions for you and you actively chose, for the most part, to say no to that… Right now, it’s just scary for everybody.”