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2-state sees new high in COVID-19 hospitalizations



AUGUSTA, Ga. – The totals of COVID-19 inpatients in South Carolina and Georgia hospitals are at their highest points yet.

According to the COVID Tracking Project, Georgia now has more than 4,900 people in hospitals due to COVID-19. South Carolina has about 2,000.

“We’re at a situation that is worse right now than we were back in July when we hit our peak,” Prisma Health CEO Mike O’Halla said in South Carolina.

Comparing those numbers to the start of December, the number of COVID-19 inpatients in both states has about doubled.

“We monitor the number of ventilators we have available, we monitor the number of intensive care unit beds. We are looking at the fact that a good proportion of those beds are occupied by people with COVID,” said Dr. Linda Bell with the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Meanwhile, CNN reported that the U.S. sets a daily COVID-19 death record for the second day in a row. Another 80,000 could die in next three weeks, a new forecast says

The grim statistics come just as hope is on the horizon, with Augusta University Health rolling out its second form of the COVID-19 vaccine this week. After having the Pfizer vaccine – the first one approved for use – the hospital now also is using the Moderna vaccine. AU Health staff members have vaccinated more than 4,500 workers so far, something they say is unimaginable.

Meanwhile, the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center has vaccinated around 5,000 veterans.

And Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and health officials announced plans to expand vaccination to adults age 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders.

Not all are happy with the vaccine rollout, even as the pace picks up in Georgia and officials in South Carolina say their vaccination rate is ahead of the national and regional averages. Health officials said Thursday that 39,100 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in South Carolina.

South Carolina lawmakers frustrated with the health agency’s pandemic response say health officials need to communicate their vaccine plan better to both the Legislature and the public.

“It will be an unknown amount of time before everyone who would like to be vaccinated can receive vaccine,” Bell, the state epidemiologist, in a statement. “We are calling on all South Carolinians to continue to be patient and understand that an endeavor like this will take many weeks to complete the initial phases and months to achieve our ultimate goal of coverage for the population.”