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'We're probably going back up': Coliseum Health System COVID-19 hospitalizations drop sharply, doctor warns of second wave

An infectious disease specialist at the hospital says data she's watching from the Georgia Department of Public Health makes her think more cases could be on the way

MACON, Ga. — On Thursday, Governor Brian Kemp said less than 1,000 people are hospitalized across the state with COVID-19. That's a nearly 40% decrease since May 1st.

Coliseum Health System is part of that, as hospitalization numbers there have fallen dramatically, but one of their infectious disease specialists warns she thinks a second wave could be on the way.

Good news first, though. Take a look at this graph.

Credit: WMAZ

It shows the number of COVID-19-positive inpatients at Coliseum Health System since late March.

There are some gaps in the data, but the trend is clear: about a month ago, the number of inpatients started to fall.

"I noticed that it seemed like our numbers were beginning to drop and it felt like we could breathe again," said Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, an associate professor of infectious disease at Mercer University and a practicing physician at Coliseum Health System.

The decline continued all the way to this week, when Coliseum saw some of their lowest COVID-19 inpatient numbers in months.

That success might be doubly gratifying for Hoffman, who was there when the numbers were still rising.

At one point, she estimates 40 people were hospitalized there with the virus.

"Initially, honestly, I mean, it was overwhelming," she said. "It was sort of scary, you know -- this is a disease no one has very much experience with and these patients were just so sick."

Now, hospitalizations are way down, but Hoffman says the Georgia Department of Public Health's number of newly-reported cases this week across the state makes her worry another wave of hospitalizations could be on the way.

"Plus, I'm seeing a few more new admissions than I was, say, last week, so my sense is that we're probably going back up," she said.

COVID-19 is a new disease and doctors had to come up with new methods to fight it in a hurry.

Hoffman says as they refined their strategies, patient outcomes improved.

"I think that our experience with that first group of patients is going to help us with the next group of patients when and if that hits," she said.

When asked how high she thinks this possible second wave of hospitalizations could rise, she said there's no way to predict the future, but Hoffman stressed that how seriously people choose to take the virus will have a big impact.

"A lot of people feel like this is over, and as much as we would all like it to be, it just isn't," she said. "It's not over. It's not even close to over."

Hoffman's advice was pretty straightforward.

Keep social distancing, washing hands often, and wearing a mask in public.

Hoffman also said it's important to keep seeking medical care for non-COVID issues so they don't get worse without treatment.

She says Coliseum's emergency room and the rest of the hospital are frequently cleaned, employees are all wearing masks, and the risk of catching COVID-19 at the hospital is low.

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FACTS NOT FEAR | At 13WMAZ, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the coronavirus. To see our full coverage, visit our site section here: www.13wmaz.com/Coronavirus.

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