MACON, Ga. — After encouraging signs in May and early June, COVID-19 hospitalizations at Coliseum Health System are soaring once again.
In the last seven days, they've increased 127%.
"It's definitely frustrating, and certainly, you know, not what any of us had hoped for," said Dr. Jennifer Hoffman.
On June 24, Coliseum had 11 COVID-19 inpatients. A week later, on July 1, there were 25 people hospitalized according to data provided by the hospital system.
"That's more than doubled in the course of a week," said Hoffman.
The figure is a level not seen at the hospital since late April and a stark contrast to their less than 5 COVID-19 inpatients roughly two weeks ago.
At their peak, Coliseum had about 32 COVID-19 inpatients. That was back in mid-April.
Hoffman, an infectious disease specialist at the hospital, puts much of the blame on looser statewide restrictions, a lowered commitment to following social distancing protocols, and a reluctance by some to wear face coverings.
"I think it is the single most important preventative step that any of us can take," said the doctor. "Masks are very effective in preventing you from transmitting your virus to somebody around you."
Governor Brian Kemp echoed that message Wednesday, urging all Georgians to wear a mask to limit the virus's spread.
"I think we all agree that especially right now it's wise for people to wear a mask, especially when they're out in a public setting and they can't socially distance themselves," said Kemp.
So far, COVID-related deaths at Coliseum have not risen as sharply as hospitalizations.
However, deaths tend to be a lagging indicator.
"When people die of COVID, it's not usually right after they get admitted," said Hoffman. "Most of the time, they've been sick for a couple of weeks."
She hopes a possible spike in deaths can be mitigated now that doctors have a better understanding of the virus.
"We have protocols we didn't have a couple months ago, we have experience we didn't have a couple months ago," said Hoffman, but the doctor says the best way to keep people alive is to limit the spread of the virus. To do that, everyone needs to take it seriously.
"I don't know what I can say that hasn't been said at this point," said Hoffman. "I hope that people don't have to learn the hard way. I hope that they don't learn by them getting sick or by someone they love getting really sick."
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