December has been a tough month for COVID-19 in Polk County so far as local hospitals continue to report record high numbers of COVID-19 infected patients being treated.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported Saturday that 269 new cases of the coronavirus were reported in Polk County residents in the two weeks prior, with 17 being hospitalized due to complications from the disease.
In total, 2,421 cases have been confirmed in Polk County since the start of the pandemic, 406 of those in December alone, making it the third worst month locally with five days left before the new year. The two-week moving average as of Saturday was just more than 19 new cases per day.
Two more deaths in Polk County were attributed to COVID-19 last week, bringing the total for the month to nine and the total since the start of the pandemic to 42.
A daily report distributed by the Floyd County Emergency Management Agency showed 77 patients with the disease at Floyd Medical Center and 70 at Redmond Regional Medical Center as of last Wednesday, the last day the report was issued before the holidays. That’s 147 people in hospital beds in Rome.
Any Polk County patients that are taken to Polk Medical Center are transported to Floyd Medical Center.
The high infection and hospitalization rates, exacerbated by Thanksgiving Day travel and gatherings, had the potential to spike even higher if Christmas get-togethers follow the same trend.
“We have high, high numbers — the highest numbers that we’ve seen since the pandemic started,” said Dr. Gary Voccio, director of the 10-county Northwest Georgia Public Health District. “Experience tells us that with another holiday coming up we’re going to see just higher numbers.”
At this point one-quarter to one-third of hospitalizations are due to COVID-19, he said.
The state is about to open the World Congress Center again to help metro Atlanta hospitals deal with a lack of beds.
If there’s a bright spot, local hospitals have had time to prepare. FMC and Redmond have expanded their ability to house patients with the highly infectious virus. However, it’s been a slow, steady and difficult grind for healthcare workers — who are exhausted.
Voccio described the vaccines as a bright spot. The health department is preparing to receive doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, which doesn’t require the deep cold storage that the Pfizer vaccine does. But it’s not a cure.
“The vaccine isn’t going to save us right now,” Voccio said.
He urged people to limit their interactions to their immediate social circles, physically distance from others and wear masks in order to slow down the spread of the virus.