Gov. Brian Kemp said during a Jan. 21 press conference that Georgia’s hospitals cannot handle another surge in COVID-19 patients.
The sobering assessment comes as the state awaits an increase in the allocation of vaccine doses from the federal government.
“The virus could kill you or put you in the hospital before you can get the vaccine,” Kemp warned, and encouraged residents to wash their hands, social distance, and wear a mask.
Kemp said hospitals are using emergency capacity and a 60-bed field hospital reopened at the Georgia World Congress Center in Downtown is almost at capacity.
Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said the more contagious variant first identified in the United Kingdom would make fighting the disease an even bigger challenge. There are now five reported cases of the variant in Georgia, she said.
The vaccination rollout has seen high demand and frustration, as county sites quickly ran out of vaccines and registration websites crashed, making it hard to tell when and where to get vaccinated.
As of Jan. 20, more than 535,000 doses of the vaccine had been administered in the state. The current allocation for Georgia is 120,000 doses, but 40,000 of those had been automatically going to CVS and Walgreen pharmacies to inoculate nursing home patients and staff. With both pharmacies reporting they have adequate supply to finish those inoculations, that will free up an additional 40,000 doses next week.
The state is currently in phase “1A+,” of vaccine distribution, which applies to all adults 65 and older and their caregivers; healthcare workers; residents and staff of long-term care facilities; and law enforcement officers, fire department personnel and dispatchers and 911 operators.
Yet to come are phases “1B,” covering other “essential workers”; and “1C,” covering people ages 16-64 who with pre-existing conditions that increase the risk for severe COVID-19.
Kemp said there is no plan to expand the criteria for who can get the vaccine until more doses are available. Further mass vaccination sites are expected to be announced in the coming days and 1,700 providers around the state were ready to offer vaccinations.
DPH is providing an updated list of vaccine locations on its website here.
For more about this story, see coverage in Atlanta Intown.
–John Ruch contributed