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'We need the community's help': Macon hospitals plead for public mask use as cases surge

Coliseum and Navicent both report surges in COVID and non-COVID patients

MACON, Ga. — As COVID-19 cases surge in Central Georgia and across the state, two of the area's largest hospitals pleaded with the public to follow CDC guidelines.

A third, Houston Healthcare, did the same earlier this week.

"I can tell you that it's still very busy, I know we have a lot of patients," said Dr. John Wood, the Medical Director for the Emergency Department at Medical Center Navicent Health.

He's urging people to wear masks, social distance, and avoid crowds as Navicent deals with a spike in both COVID and non-COVID patients.

"This is not about politics," he said. "This is about public health."

On Wednesday, Navicent reported a "dramatic increase" in hospitalizations this week, though, unlike other major Central Georgia hospitals, it continues to decline to release the specific number of COVID-19 patients or available ICU beds.

The doctor says the temporary medical unit built in Navicent's parking lot has been in use for several weeks treating patients with "COVID-related illness."

However, Dr. Wood says the health system still has the capacity for more patients. 

Coliseum Health System CEO Stephen Daugherty was more forthcoming with their data.

He says his hospital has room, too, but this new surge is pushing their limits.

Hospital leaders have been forced to look for creative solutions to deal with a wave of new patients.

"I have no free beds in my ICU," said Daugherty. "I have no free med-surg beds, we have utilized other areas of the hospital now to take care of those patients."

Daugherty says the hospital has a total of 28 ICU beds and 156 med-surg beds, excluding some other specialty units like labor and delivery.

However, he notes they still have additional room to add more beds, and Daugherty says patients should not hesitate to seek treatment if they need it.

The ER is open, doctors are triaging patients, and will take care of them--either by admitting them, transferring them to another hospital, or some other means, but like Dr. Wood, he's pleading with the public to put politics aside, social distance, wear a mask and avoid crowds.

"We've seen the doubling time for COVID at our hospital go from 48 days down now to about 13 days," he said. "So if the current trend continues, 13 days from now, we'll have twice as many as we have today, so we need the community's help."

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