AdventHealth Gordon has finally reached 100 percent bed-use capacity as Georgia continues to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases, according to Director of Marketing and Communications Garrett Nudd.

The news comes as cases of the virus continue to rise state-wide and locally. In Gordon County, the weekend saw an increase of 68 confirmed positive cases and two deaths — numbers that have only continued to rise as the week goes on. Statewide, cases increased by 12,310 over the weekend, with 154 new deaths reported as of Monday afternoon.

Nudd said the hospital has been at or near 100 percent capacity for some time now but emphasized that despite the challenges of caring for so many patients at once, patient care is being taken as seriously as ever. Staff members are being treated with equal care, given the increased work load.

“Our staff is very taxed and tired but they have great morale. We are all pitching in and helping them where and when we can,” Nudd said. “Our staff and hospital leadership come in to help in the evenings with answering phones or doing temperature checks in the lobby. We can’t provide clinical care, but we do things like that to help lessen their burden.”

Nudd himself has volunteered to answer phones. During one volunteer shift, he said a nurse pointed out two different hospital rooms with patients inside that they suspected wouldn’t make it through the night and asked if he would pray for them. He did.

“I don’t want to push spiritual beliefs on people, but if people feel moved to pray for our frontline caregivers we encourage that. When our nurses see that and hear about people praying for them, I can’t tell you what it means,” he said. “They see a lot of people who have COVID and end up being fine, but they see a lot who don’t make it 24 hours. It’s hard, and that prayer really makes a difference.”

Asked what other ways members of the community could pitch in to help lessen the burden on staff, Nudd emphasized the importance of continuing to follow CDC guidelines for handwashing, properly wearing face masks and socially distancing whenever possible. He also said that though he knew some were hesitant to do so, getting the COVID-19 vaccine could save lives.

“I know some people are nervous about it, but there’s never been a vaccine with more testing than this. Granted it was expedited and put together quickly, but the greatest medical minds in the country came together to do that work. The risk of not taking it far outweighs the risk of taking it,” he said. “If we ever want to return to a time when we can gather with our families and friends without worrying, we have to get people vaccinated.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health is currently only administering the vaccine to healthcare workers (physicians, nurses, laboratory technicians, EMS personnel, environmental services, etc.), residents and staff of long-term care facilities, adults aged 65 and older, law enforcement, firefighters and other first responders.

The exact date for when it will be available to the general public at large is not yet known, though plans for rolling out the vaccine to additional groups have been released by the DPH. Next up on the list of those eligible to receive the vaccine are essential workers outside of the healthcare industry who perform job tasks across critical infrastructure sectors. Following those workers, persons aged 16-64 with medical conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19 will be eligible.

At this time and for the foreseeable future, no vaccines will be administered without a prior appointment.

More information about vaccines, registration and roll-out plans can be found online at www.nwgapublichealth.org.

Kelcey Walker is a reporter for the Calhoun Times in Calhoun, Ga.

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