Wellstar eyes easing pandemic visitation restrictions

·3 min read

Jan. 29—Wellstar's Cobb County hospitals are considering fewer restrictions on COVID-19 patient visitations, Dr. Mary Chatman, president of Wellstar Kennestone and Windy Hill hospitals, said in a virtual healthcare briefing Friday.

"Wellstar was one of the hospitals that required our team members to be vaccinated," Chatman said. "So because of that, this morning, we talked about loosening some of our visitation restrictions," though she did not specify which were on the cutting block.

At that same briefing, Lisa Cupid, chairwoman of the Cobb County Board of Commissioners, said she is open to limiting large gatherings if local health officials advise her to.

Cobb seems to have passed the peak of its omicron-fueled surge in coronavirus cases, however.

According to Chatman, there has been a drop in the number of patients in the hospital with COVID-19 in Cobb County this week.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals has dropped to 579 from 686 last week, and the number of COVID-19 patients in the ICU has dropped to 97 from 118 last week.

There has been a small increase in the number of COVID-19 patients on ventilators, however. There were 60 patients on ventilators last week, and that number has risen to 65 this week.

"We continue to see that the largest percentage of admissions within our hospitals are those who are unvaccinated," Chatman said.

Data on Wellstar's website shows that 69% of COVID-19 patients in its hospitals are unvaccinated.

Despite this week's drop in hospitalized patients, hospitals are still at "severe" capacity levels, according to Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health.

Overall, there were 13,821 cases recorded in Cobb during the last two weeks.

"I'm surprised," Memark said. "I thought cases would be down much further than where they are at right now, but they are still in exceptionally high ranges."

Memark believes the reason for these high case numbers could be the fact that more and more people are getting back outside and returning to work after the holidays.

BA.2, an offshoot of the omicron variant, has been detected in 40 countries, including the U.S., Memark said in a video shared on the county's social media pages Thursday. The current vaccines, she added, are still effective against this new, but still less severe, version of the coronavirus.

"The World Health Organization named it a variant of interest, so it isn't a concern quite yet," Memark said. "We are watching it very closely to see what happens in the U.S."

During Friday's briefing, Cupid raised concerns about long waiting times for COVID tests in east Cobb. To this, Memark urged residents to register in advance to combat long lines.

Here's a look at Cobb County and state COVID-19 numbers reported Friday, and how they compare to the day before. All information comes from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

A Cobb and Douglas Public Health report, including data on how the coronavirus is affecting different ZIP codes, genders and ages, is available at reports.mysidewalk.com/17554e75c1#c-452027.

For the Georgia DPH's full report, visit dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report.

National data can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website at cdc.gov.