The highly contagious Delta variant continues to devastate our community. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, there has been a tenfold increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 between July 1 and now in Newton County. We do not know exactly how long this fourth wave will last.
As a hospital executive, I think it is my responsibility to tell you what I am seeing in our Emergency Department and ICU. At the beginning of the summer, Piedmont Newton Hospital had almost no COVID patients. Now, as we approach the end of summer, we have almost as many COVID patients as we have had at any single point since the start of the pandemic more than a year and a half ago.
Our patients with COVID are younger now, too. The number of people in their 20s, 30s and 40s who are hospitalized with COVID is significantly higher than during previous surges. Across Piedmont Healthcare’s 16 hospitals, the average age of patients hospitalized with COVID is 53 years old. At Piedmont Newton, we currently have patients in their 30s on ventilators in the ICU.
One thing is clear from what we are witnessing in our hospital: the vaccine works. While it may not stop you from getting COVID, it will stop you from ending up in our hospital with COVID. Over 95% of patients in Piedmont hospitals with COVID are unvaccinated and over 97% on ventilators are unvaccinated. Crucially, the vaccine also can keep you from dying from COVID: 99.2% of our system’s deaths have been among the unvaccinated.
Every day, I hear from our incredible staff that they are experiencing more death than at any other time in their long medical careers. While they would never complain, I can see that they are exhausted and sad. Fortunately, unlike during previous surges, there is something you can do to help. Please get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Newton County residents are getting vaccinated more slowly than the state as a whole. Currently, 41% of Newton County residents have had at least one dose of the vaccine—that’s compared to 50% of Georgia residents overall. Meanwhile, just 35% of Newton County residents are fully vaccinated, compared to 43% of Georgia residents overall. What we need more than anything right now is for you to get vaccinated and, if you are vaccinated, to encourage your loved ones to do the same.
You can find all the information you need on the COVID-19 vaccines, including answers to frequently asked questions, at https://www.piedmont.org/covid-19/vaccine-faq.
David Kent is the CEO of Piedmont Newton Hospital in Covington. With more than 18 years of healthcare experiencee, he has served in this role since April 2020.