Piedmont Columbus Regional CEO says COVID hospitalizations rising, most patients unvaccinated

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — COVID-19 hospitalizations in Columbus are creeping back up.

Piedmont Columbus Regional Chief Executive Officer Scott Hill said back in May his hospital was preparing for a fourth surge. Monday, he told News 3 he now fears we are in it.

“The numbers are certainly heading that direction,” Hill said in an exclusive interview.

The first surge was in the spring of 2020, followed by a rise in COVID cases in July of 2020. The third surge came in January of this year, right after the Christmas holiday.

According to Mayor Skip Henderson’s office, there are about 60 people currently hospitalized in Columbus for COVID-related illnesses. That is compared to 26 on July 1st. The current rolling 7-day average for hospitalizations is 48.

The hospitalization high in Columbus was about 200 in mid-January.

That is combined at both local hospital systems – Piedmont Columbus Regional and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare. The numbers are not broken out by the hospital, as has been the policy since the pandemic began. Piedmont has had a standing policy not to talk about COVID numbers in its facility.

“We are definitely seeing increased positivity rates. I think you have the numbers for the hospitalizations citywide from last week to this week,” Hill said. “They have gone really almost two times. The numbers are certainly trending in that direction. We are about three weeks-ish out of the July Fourth holiday. So, we are paying real close attention to the numbers like we always do. It will be interesting to see what happens next week.”

While Hill says the fourth surge appears to be happening. He says that almost all of those in the hospital have not had the COVID vaccination.

“So, for a period of time kind of leading up to this week, it was all unvaccinated,” Hill said. “All of our hospitalizations for COVID were people who had not had the vaccine. We have had a couple of folks who have come in who have been vaccinated who are in the hospital. They also have some underlying health conditions. So, it’s very few numbers. It’s mostly unvaccinated people who are getting COVID and going into the hospital right now.”

Hill says the way to stop this is pretty simple – get the shot. Earlier today, Gov. Brian Kemp urged Georgians to talk to their doctor and get vaccinated. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey did the same thing late last week.

“I believe in the vaccine,” Hill said. “People need to get vaccinated. It’s safe. It’s a personal decision for everybody no doubt. But, it’s the No. 1 way to avoid being hospitalized should you get COVID. Just because you get the vaccine doe not mean you won’t get COVID. But if you do get COVID, the likelihood of you ending up in the hospital is very slim.”

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