COVID cases are skyrocketing

Published 1:52 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

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Crisp Regional Hospital CEO Steve Gwatney joined 40 department heads for a safety huddle.


Holiday surge is the biggest one so far

By Neil B. McGahee

Managing Editor


Every morning, more than 40 Crisp Regional Hospital department heads meet for the daily “safety huddle” to discuss issues that could impact patient’s and staff’s safety.

“We discuss anything that happened in the past 24 hours,” said April Dukes, Chief Nursing Officer at Crisp Regional Hospital, “and anything we expect to happen in the next 24 hours that will enhance patient safety.”

This day, the biggest issue is the holiday surge, an expected resurgence of COVID-19 cases that usually follows a time when people are in close contact in indoor settings.

“The case numbers are skyrocketing,” Dukes said. “Last week, there were five confirmed COVID patients in the hospital. This week, that number jumped to 17 with six in Intensive Care and one on a ventilator. That is more than triple the confirmed cases from the previous surges. Eleven of those were unvaccinated.

We have changed our status to ‘diversion,’ meaning that when an incoming ambulance radios the hospital to let them know they’re coming, the reply is “sorry, we can’t take them.”

Dukes said this surge, although much larger than the one that followed the July 4 holiday, is the Omicron variant, which although highly contagious, isn’t translating into people being admitted to the hospital.

“It seems to be affecting patients ages 18-39 that tests positive, but very few requiring hospitalization,” she said. “The age group requiring hospitalization seems to be people ages 60-70.”

The hospital staff isn’t immune either.

“We had 20 people out today suffering from COVID,” Dukes said. “That’s a lot of people for a hospital this size.”

The hospital’s emergency room has been overwhelmed with people wanting to be tested. Dukes reminded people they no longer need to go to the emergency room for COVID testing.

“Go to a place that offers testing such as a pharmacy,” she said. “The ER needs to be able to treat real emergencies.”

Every public school system in the tri-county area, as well as private schools, has adopted different protocols regarding school attendance.

“Due to significant increases in COVID outbreaks during the holiday season,” read a letter to Dooly County parents from school superintendent Craig Lockhart. “The Dooly County School System will enforce a “masks required” protocol.  All students, faculty, and staff are required to wear masks on buses and in schools except when eating or otherwise advised by school staff.”

Another Dooly school, Fullington Academy, isn’t changing its protocol.

“Right now, only a few of our children have tested positive,” said Fullington Head of Schools Gay Nelson. We plan to go on as usual,”

Crisp school superintendent Cindy Hughes echoed Nelson saying there were no plans to alter the usual protocol.

“Virtual learning has been offered to Crisp students wishing to learn at home for the last two years,” Hughes said. “We don’t have any plans to change it.”

Wilcox County Superintendent of Schools Dale Garnto said all schools will continue with in-person learning and students are strongly encouraged to wear a mask.

April Dukes said she doesn’t expect the pandemic to end anytime soon.

“I expect to see another surge later this week and next after the New Year’s holiday,” she said. “The surge is far from over and I think it’s going to get worse. We are going to continue to battle COVID just like we do with the flu. COVID is the new virus.”