Floyd County blew past the 1,000-case mark over the weekend and ended Monday with a total of 1,069 residents who have been confirmed positive for COVID-19.
As cases surge statewide as well, getting enough personal protective equipment has re-emerged as a challenge for some medical providers. PPE includes gowns, masks, face shields and gloves for personnel who treat COVID-19 patients or deal with potentially infected individuals.
State Public Health officials Monday reported another 2,890 new cases in Georgia, bringing the total to 170,843. Eleven more people died Monday, making 3,509 fatalities, and another 47 were hospitalized.
Floyd County hospitals were treating 52 patients as of Monday morning, although they weren’t all local residents. So far, 66 local residents have had symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization and 15 have died.
Officials at Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center said last week they have adequate supplies for now. But others are having trouble getting protective gear, according to the Georgia Hospital Association.
“It’s still not easy to get PPE,’’ said Anna Adams, a GHA vice president.
At Augusta University Health, officials are closely monitoring how quickly clinicians are using up PPE, Dr. Phillip Coule, chief medical officer at Augusta University Health, told the AJC.
Duane Kavka of the Georgia Primary Care Association, which represents community health centers across Georgia, told GHN on Friday that due to the surge of COVID-19, “we are being told by PPE suppliers that we may be facing shortages of PPE in the very near future.’’
The health centers are also facing limitations on the number of COVID-19 test kits from the two national labs – Quest and LabCorp, Kavka added.
The PPE situation is also on federal officials’ radar.
The nation’s top emergency official told lawmakers Wednesday that the U.S. could face PPE shortages in areas with rising COVID-19 cases, and said the reliance on overseas suppliers is a “national security issue.”
While the U.S. has more face masks, gloves and other PPE than it did two months ago, a surge in demand in states with growing hospitalizations could cause “micro-shortages,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Pete Gaynor told the House Committee on Homeland Security, according to a CNBC article.
“We’re in a much better place than we were coming out of March and April. However, we are not out of the woods completely with PPE,” Gaynor said.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Kemp said that according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, the state’s PPE supply chain is functioning well.
“When I asked (GEMA director) Homer Bryson, he said it’s the best it’s been since the public health emergency started,’’ said Candice Broce, the spokeswoman.
“Getting reagents is still difficult, however,’’ Broce said.
A reagent is a chemical used in a reaction to detect or measure a substance of interest. A critical part of COVID-19 testing, reagents typically are used in a lab to test patient swab samples to determine a positive or negative COVID-19 result.
Shortages of reagents or other materials limit the ability of labs to test samples.
Pushing for masks
The Hospital Association, meanwhile, is launching a social media campaign to urge Georgians to wear masks in public.
Adams, the association vice president, said Thursday that hospitals “have very clearly been experiencing a pretty nasty surge statewide.’’
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have hit a record level recently in Georgia. According to a state website, just 13 percent of critical care beds are available in Georgia.
Even a small increase in mask wearing ‘’would have a huge impact,’’ Adams said.
“People are not being as careful as in the beginning’’ of the pandemic, she said. “My concern is that the workforce is tired’’ from fighting the virus. “They’re burned out. It takes a toll on you.’’
The Hospital Association is working with Gov. Kemp and has reached out to the Atlanta Braves, the Falcons, Delta Air Lines and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, among other organizations, to help push the message.
Adams did not endorse a statewide mask mandate. “If people don’t feel a social responsibility, they’re not going to do it. There are still a lot of people who don’t wear seat belts.’’