COVID cases, hospitalizations up at Augusta hospitals


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Doctors at Augusta’s local hospitals report a steep increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The situation has those leaders and Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, calling for people to get vaccinated and mask up.

NewsChannel 6 spoke with Augusta University Health System Vice President & Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule.

He said, “The only question will be how bad does this surge get?”

It’s like deja vu. Positive COVID-19 cases are on the rise again. Dr. Coule added there are 39 people battling the virus in the hospital as of Tuesday morning and many of them are critically ill.

“For the most part, this is mostly unvaccinated people,” he explained.

University Hospital is also seeing a COVID spike where Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Ioana Chirca said hospitalizations went from 15 admitted patients to more than 50 in one week. And she said they are younger, between 30 and 50. Dr. Coule is seeing the same thing, with the average patient age being around 45.

Dr. Chirca told us the severe COVID hospitalizations, which include pneumonia, is the Delta variant becoming more prevalent in the CSRA.

She said, “It is a lot more infectious than the previous variants. Before we saw one person infecting two to three other people and now we see six, up to ten.”

Dr. Coule added the unvaccinated are largely to blame for the Delta variant existing, because they miss out on the decreased risk for getting infected.

“These variants occur when human beings are infected and then a mutation occurs in the virus in the process of trying to replicate itself. That’s where variants come from,” he said. “If people never get infected, then the variant doesn’t occur until it does in an unvaccinated person, for example.”

Both hospital leaders said it’s not too late to get vaccinated and it’s time for people to mask up. That’s what Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis is urging people to do too as he considers a mask mandate.

“I’m waiting on those conversations on Tuesday,” he said. “The Department of Public Health, Dr. Goggans will be here presenting before the commission, providing them with situational awareness of where we are in terms of the COVID cases.”

Mayor Davis said he will have continued conversations this week with the reconvened COVID-19 Task Force to see whether the data will call for the Garden City to follow Atlanta and Savannah’s mask orders. But for now, he said we aren’t there yet.

He added Augusta’s roughly 30 percent vaccination rate needs to increase.

“Take politics, take all of the nonsense out of it. You want to save lives,” the mayor said adding that Augusta and the rest of the county have already seen too many deaths.

Dr. Chirca noted that the therapies for COVID are the same, such as anti inflammatory medications and Remdesivir, and there are no new medications approved to treat an active COVID infection.

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