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Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday that COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, will peak April 26 in Georgia, even as the model the governor cited projected a peak date of May 1, underscoring the fluidity of the situation.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Georgia will reach its peak “hospital resource use,” which projects the number of hospital beds, ICU beds and invasive ventilators needed for COVID-19 patients, on May 1.
That projection has repeatedly changed, Kemp said, from April 24 to April 20 and most recently April 26. That’s the date Kemp cited during his press briefing April 13 at Liberty Plaza in Atlanta.
Just before Kemp spoke, the IHME’s website showed Georgia’s greatest need for resources is expected to be May 1, when the state is projected to need 807 ICU beds at hospitals, 218 more than its current capacity.
Georgia currently has 2,617 emergency room beds, 929 “critical care” beds and nearly 6,000 general inpatient beds available, Kemp said. He added that the state will start providing daily updates on hospital bed capacity by the end of the week.
“We need to be firing on all cylinders to prepare for the days and weeks ahead,” Kemp said.
The state’s new projected peak happens to be the date that President Trump has said he would like to see the U.S. economy “reopen.” Kemp declined to address Trump’s comments, saying instead that his office is focused on increasing hospital capacity and testing.
“I don’t want to speculate until we get to that peak,” Kemp said.
As of noon Monday, there were 13,315 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, including 138 in Forsyth County.
Almost 20% of cases in Georgia have required hospitalization, with 464 deaths, including five in Forsyth.
Health officials have stressed that confirmed cases do not represent the full picture of COVID-19 in the community due to limited testing. Over 57,000 tests have been conducted, but Kemp said testing still lags in Georgia despite new partnerships to ramp up those efforts.
For instance, the state announced April 12 it was building a temporary care facility at the Georgia World Congress Center featuring 200 “non-ICU medical pods” for individuals with mild to moderate symptoms. PAE, a private company, will work with the Georgia National Guard, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, the Department of Community Health, the Department of Public Health to prepare the site. The first parts of the site are supposed to be ready in about a week.
In addition, Kemp said during Monday’s press briefing that the state has purchased four temporary medical units to expand bed capacity, including one in Gainesville that will be operational May 5.
Other units will be in Albany, Macon and Rome near the site of hotspots for the novel coronavirus in Georgia.
The state has also expanded testing criteria “to include symptomatic critical infrastructure workers and asymptomatic individuals who have had direct contact with positive COVID-19 patients, including family members,” Kemp said.
Testing will still prioritize individuals with underlying medical conditions who are showing symptoms, as well as first responders, healthcare workers, law enforcement and long-term care facility residents and staff, Kemp added.
Kemp urged individuals who believe they have COVID-19 to contact their local health department to arrange for testing.
While the state scrambles to increase testing, official counts of actual deaths from COVID-19 also likely lag due to delays in reporting death certificate data, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Forsyth County’s fifth death from COVID-19 was confirmed Saturday by the DPH. The individual was identified as an 81-year-old female. It's not known whether she had underlying medical conditions.
In Forsyth County, the victims have ranged in age from 60 to 87. Three have been male and two female. None were known to have underlying medical conditions.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms, but some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.