The Resurgence of Covid-19
COVID-19 by the Numbers
*Data from the first COVID-19 patient on March 3, 2020 to March 3, 2022
COVID-19 Variants Strike South Georgia
Two years ago, the World Health Organization declared the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus a pandemic. However, as COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, the international medical community has turned its attention to multiple variants of concern, including Delta and Omicron, both considered highly transmissible even among fully vaccinated adults.
“These emerging variants are siblings from the same family of viral infections,” said Dr. Brian Dawson, South Georgia Medical Center Chief Medical Officer. “We saw a high number of cases of Delta in July , and at first, we weren’t sure if it was going to be as bad, but nonetheless, we were prepared for what lay ahead.”
While adjusting to the COVID-19 variants, SGMC remained focused on its organizational framework established at the onset of the pandemic. The framework consisted of a strategy that included activating the hospital’s Emergency Operation Plan (EOP) and establishing a clinically-led response team.
SGMC employees and volunteers provide convenient access to COVID-19 vaccinations at its drive-thru events.
"We've learned a lot of lessons from the subsequent waves of COVID," said Randy Smith, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer. "The Delta variant caused more hospitalizations and deaths than the first virus, and we don't know what the next wave will look like. But, it continues to push us to remain efficient throughout."
Along with efficiency came innovation, as SGMC was at the forefront in providing access to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and advanced medical therapies including monoclonal antibodies.
On March 16, 2020, at the early onset of COVID-19, SGMC mobilized the community's first drive-thru testing site at its Smith Northview campus.
"Testing remains an important part of our COVID response."
"People need to know if they have the virus, and if they are positive, they need to take the necessary steps to stop the spread, take care of themselves and protect their friends and family."
Less than a year later, on January 11, 2021, SGMC used its successful and efficient drive-thru system to provide COVID-19 vaccines to people 65 and older, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders.
"Again, we came together very quickly with the vaccination line," Smith said. "We even offered vaccines on Saturday for our educators and continue to encourage the most vulnerable population to get vaccinated."
As age eligibility expanded and more vaccines became available, including boosters, the hospital administered more than 51,000 vaccines since distribution began.
“We have the vaccine as a first line of defense, and for people who are fully vaccinated, they offer a high degree of protection against hospitalization,” Dawson said. “Some of the things we have seen with the variants is the high level of transmission. Our strategy continues to support access to the vaccine and boosters.”
Getting more adults and children vaccinated allows SGMC to continue providing standard hospital care even during variant surges.
“With Delta, when we had large peaks, we didn’t stop elective surgeries as we did with the first COVID surge,” Dawson said. “There was some tightening up on our surgical schedules to take care of patients, but for the most part, elective and non-emergency surgeries and procedures were scheduled.”
SGMC was an early adopter of monoclonal antibodies, an infusion therapy that works to decrease the severity of the disease.
We were here to help and provide care to patients from other communities.
“A key to the infusion is keeping people from being admitted to the hospital,” Dawson said. “It helped us treat patients and maintain our routine level of care to the other patients.”
Multiple spikes in COVID-19 cases presented increased demand for the infusion therapy. SGMC rallied to treat patients from Georgia, North Florida, and Alabama with this successful therapy.
“We were here to help and provide care to patients from other communities,” Dawson said. “This further confirmed SGMC as the region’s destination hospital for accessing healthcare services that are unavailable elsewhere, not only in providing care but also resources, as other hospitals sought our advice and assistance in setting up infusion therapy centers.”
As the variants continue to present numerous healthcare challenges, many Americans question how long it will take for the pandemic to subside and if it will eventually end.
“COVID-19 remains in constant movement and is still very fluid,” Dawson said. “At SGMC, our focus is making sure people in the region, and further out, have the proper access to healthcare that they need.”
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SGMC's COVID-19 Communications Receive National Awards
2020 was an unprecedented year for health care systems across the world, which is why SGMC chose to document it with its first-ever annual report. The report, available in both print and digital formats, featured a recap of the health system's response to COVID-19, patient testimonials from various service lines, and stories of how the organization evolved over the year.
Community Vaccination Campaign
In July of 2021, SGMC began to see an increase in hospitalizations among the unvaccinated while physician offices also saw a rise in positivity among their patients. Community education regarding increased volumes and infection among the unvaccinated was critical. SGMC collaborated with a dozen physicians from across the community who shared what they were seeing. Eight videos were produced and shared online, designed to educate the community about the ongoing COVID-19 threat in the local area, raise awareness about the importance of getting vaccinated, and increase local vaccination rates.
A special thank you to the following physicians for participating in the campaign: Dr. Charlene Blache, Southern Pediatric Clinic, Dr. Alexander Culbreth, Southern OB/GYN, Dr. Jerthitia Taylor Grate, SGMC Women's Health, Dr. Thomas Hobby, SGMC Valdosta Medical Clinic, Dr. Ben Hogan, Family Medicine Private Practice, Dr. Leslie Lamptey, Apogee Physicians, Dr. Jonathan Parrott, Parrott Medical Clinic, Dr. Brian Pisula, SGMC Emergency Department, Dr. Laura Guadiana Sanchez, SGMC Family Medicine, Dr. Leon Smith, Valdosta Family Medicine, and Dr. Matthew Varn, Griner Medical Group.
Dose of Kindness
It's been said that kindness is the best medicine. With 2020 being particularly challenging for health care professionals, SGMC launched a campaign asking the community to help spread kindness among its team members. The campaign featured a video of healthcare employees taking a moment to thank a fellow team member who made an impact on their life and ended with a call to action, to give a dose of kindness. Those submissions were then shared with team members and across SGMC's social media sites.