ATLANTA – Governor Brian Kemp announced the state will increase the total number of supported staff in hospitals to 2,800 from the original 1,300.
Across the state, hospitals told the governor’s office that they needed more staff to treat the influx of COVID-19 patients as well as other patients.
Through October 2021, Georgia had committed $500 million for 1,300 state-supported staff in hospitals across the staff. The increase to 2,800 doubles staffing assistance and another $125 million. The existing contract will be extended as well.
170 staff will go to rural hospitals. Another 450 beds at nine regional facilities have been identified to treat patients statewide.
Kemp encouraged the unvaccinated to talk with their medical care professional and those they trust about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“This safe, effective vaccine will reduce the likelihood of you get infected with COVID-19, but more importantly it drastically reduces the chances of you ending up in a hospital bed or losing your life,” Kemp stated.
90 percent of hospitalizations in Georgia for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. Georgia’s only 41 percent fully vaccinated with the majority of counties falling into the 30 percentile range for vaccinations.
Department of Public Health (DPH) Director Dr. Kathleen Toomey explained that 90 percent of the new cases are the Delta Variant. It transmits extremely quickly from person to person and more younger individuals are being diagnosed with COVID-19 than before.
Toomey believes the going to vaccine clinics won’t convince someone to receive the shot, but encouragement from family, friends, and doctors.
DPH will continue to hold vaccination events throughout the state at places like farmer’s markets and festivals so unvaccinated don’t have to take time out of their day. The goal is to make it easy for people.
Increased COVID-19 testing from DPH is also on the way. The positivity rate in Georgia is around 17 percent and DPH will be partnering with hospitals to try and prevent overwhelming the system.
The new testing site and plan rollout should become known by the end of the week.
Kemp urged the FDA to fully approve the COVID-19 vaccine to help alleviate the fears of the unvaccinated about getting the shot. The emergency use authorization status of the COVID-19 vaccine has prevented many from being vaccinated.
State employees are encouraged to get vaccinated
Friday, September 3, state government offices will be closed, and all state employees are encouraged to get the vaccine before or on September 3. Kemp added those employees who received the vaccine beforehand to take the day off as a thank you.
“I don’t think mandates in general work. I think at this point if anybody out there trusts the government, it’s probably not many people,” Kemp explained. “There’s misinformation out there.”
He added the South is experiencing vaccine hesitancy, and Georgia’s seeing it across the state.
If state employees don’t get the vaccine, they won’t experience any consequences. Kemp hopes they will get vaccinated for themselves, their families, and to help hospitals.
Kemp stated he’s supporting superintendents and districts to make good decisions at the local level.
“I don’t think any more guidance or any restrictions…I actually think that would be counter-productive,” Kemp said. “I’m very confident they know how to deal with any issues.”
Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has a message for Georgians: Everyone needs a flu shot. Yes, you! That’s the focus of a new campaign urging all Georgians over the age of six months to get a flu shot this year.
“Now more than ever, influenza vaccination is critical not only to protect people from getting sick, but to reduce the burden on our healthcare system already caring for COVID-19 patients,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H, DPH commissioner. “Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent illness from flu completely, it can help reduce the severity and risk of serious complications – and keep people out of the hospital during this COVID-19 pandemic.”
Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, including:
• Fever or feeling feverish/chills
• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle pain or body aches and headaches
• Vomiting and diarrhea, more common in children than adults
Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
Both the flu and COVID-19 spread in similar ways. Droplets or smaller virus particles from a sick person can transmit the virus to other people nearby. The smallest particles may linger in the air, and another person can inhale them and become infected.
An important difference between flu and COVID-19 is there is a vaccine available to everyone to protect against flu. Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting an annual flu shot by the end of October. It takes about two
weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.
There are tried and true measures to help protect against the flu or any respiratory illness, including COVID-19:
• If you have symptoms, stay home from school or work.
• Practice social distancing by keeping 6 feet between you and others.
• Wearing a mask or face covering in public.
• Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Alcohol based hand sanitizers (at least
60% alcohol) are the next best thing if there is no access to soap and water.
• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of
viruses. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or arm.
• Avoid touching your face as germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of
the nose, mouth and eyes.
Remember, everything you do to help prevent flu will also help prevent COVID-19.
If you do get sick and think you may have the flu, contact your healthcare provider right away. There are medications that can be used to treat flu but they are most effective when taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms.
Flu vaccine is widely available at public health departments, doctors’ offices, grocery stores, neighborhood clinics and pharmacies. To find a location near you click on https://vaccinefinder.org/find-vaccine.
For more information about flu and how to prevent it, log on to dph.ga.gov/flu or flu.gov.
For updates on flu or COVID-19, follow @GaDPH on Twitter and @GaDPH on Facebook. Show
your flu shot! Share your flu shot photo with DPH on social media using the hashtag #Igotmine.
Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is distributing an initial allotment of the drug Remdesivir received from the federal government. Georgia received 30 cases, with 40 vials of the drug per case, enough to treat about 110 patients, depending on the duration of an individual’s treatment. Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine being used to treat hospitalized patients with serious symptoms caused by COVID-19 like low oxygen levels or pneumonia. It has been found to shorten the duration of disease in patients being treated in inpatient hospital settings.
Remdesivir is given intravenously (IV) and decreases the amount of coronavirus in the body, helping patients recover faster.
The distribution plan for Remdesivir in Georgia was developed by DPH leadership, including district health directors and emergency preparedness staff, in accordance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for its use. It is based on the number of patients on ventilators, the most severely ill, and clinical best practices.
Georgia hospitals receiving Remdesivir reported 10 or more COVID-19 positive patients on ventilators, in addition to patients currently being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that takes over the work of the heart and lungs. These criteria are subject to change based on the availability of Remdesivir and
the development of patient care at hospital facilities across the state.
The following hospitals are receiving Remdesivir; Tift Regional Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Grady Health System, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, and Augusta University Medical Center.
“DPH is pleased to have the opportunity to share this promising treatment with hospitals on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., DPH commissioner. “While this drug is not a cure for COVID-19, getting it into the hospitals and improving patient outcomes is moving in the right direction.”
Georgia has received a second, much larger allotment of Remdesivir. DPH is surveying hospitals statewide over the weekend to determine need. This second allotment will be distributed next week.
Gilead Sciences, Inc. committed to supplying approximately 607,000 vials of the experimental drug over the next six weeks to treat an estimated 78,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients under an emergency use agreement (EUA). The donation to the United States is part of 1.5 million vials of Remdesivir the company is donating worldwide.
Remdesivir has not been approved by the FDA for widespread use because it is considered investigational, and it is still being studied. Remdesivir was originally developed for use against Ebola. Clinical trials for Remdesivir were done in Georgia at Emory University Hospital.
For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.
For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook