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Metro Atlanta Hospitals Overcrowded With Delta Variant Patients

ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- Hospitals in Georgia are facing severe strain, as the Delta variant runs rampant. A Metro Atlanta health official weighed in on the crisis.

Wellstar Health System Medical Director of Infection Prevention Dr. Danny Branstetter described how staff members are coping. "The mental fatigue is just palpable," he said. "If this pace keeps up, and it's likely to, we're gonna surpass our peak numbers that we saw in January." Emergency rooms and ICUs are once again overcrowded. "The biggest thing that's been challenging is the fourth wave of a 20-month plus long epidemic and pandemic throughout the globe has just really worn on our staff members," said Branstetter. In response to the rising number of COVID cases, Governor Brian Kemp is deploying more members of the National Guard to support healthcare workers.

Staff members at Wellstar are required to get vaccinated by October 1, but there's no mandate for the general public. According to administration, close to 640 of Wellstar's patients have COVID, and overwhelmingly, the Delta variant. More than 90% of them are unvaccinated and nearly all of their 138 COVID ICU patients are not vaccinated. "If every one of these people in the hospital had gotten the vaccines, we'd see much different numbers," Branstetter said.

The numbers at other Metro Atlanta hospitals, like Piedmont Healthcare, are about the same. Officials also say the Delta variant is affecting younger people. "Thirty-year-olds, 20-year-olds, 40-year-olds, are now coming in. Severe symptoms," said Branstetter. "We're seeing a rapid, rapid rise in children. We're talking pediatric age, younger than 12," he added. Vaccine trials are still in progress for the pediatric group. "We should hear some data on five to 12-year-olds probably sometime in September. So maybe before Thanksgiving we will have an emergency use authorization for five through 12."

Doctors say vaccinated people who get the virus rarely require ICU care. "We're pushing for people to get vaccinated. That's the best prevention that we have right now," Branstetter said.

Health officials are also urging people with symptoms to get tested early and get the treatments doctors say will stop the spread.

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