As coronavirus worsens in Georgia, Governor Kemp reopens standby hospital at World Congress Center

Gov. Brian Kemp is poised to reopen the Georgia World Congress Center for standby hospital beds and medical equipment amid a recent increase in COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations in the state.

The governor also plans to tap a metro Atlanta hospital for an extra 100 surge and ICU beds, as well as fund additional staff at health-care and elderly care facilities in Georgia amid the COVID-19 uptick.

A 200-bed alternative care facility was activated in April at the World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta as COVID-19 cases soared and state officials rushed to boost emergency bed capacity. Its operations were paused in late May as Kemp moved to relax business restrictions and jump-start the state’s flagging economy.

The renewed state-driven buildup of hospital capacity comes as local hospitals have warned the number of patients being admitted for COVID-19 is edging up, particularly among younger Georgians, according to the governor’s office.

“On a daily – if not hourly – basis, we are monitoring hospitalizations by region, and the governor continues to hold weekly conference calls with hospital executives to gauge needs,” said Kemp’s communications director, Candice Broce.

Amid the buildup, state officials noted patients with COVID-19 are seeing shorter hospital stays through use of the treatment drug remdesivir and because their cases are less acute, in part due to their age.

Hospitals in the state will also likely continue conducting revenue-generating elective medical procedures despite the current COVID-19 increases, Broce said. Elective surgeries were put on hold earlier this year but resumed in late April as COVID-19 cases began slowing and hospitals sought to ease financial strain.

State officials also expect to see an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 test results in the coming days after testing specimens dropped off over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Georgia is negotiating “new solutions” to expand in-house test processing and results turnaround with more details forthcoming, Broce said.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 111,000 people in Georgia had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel strain of coronavirus that sparked a global pandemic. It had killed 2,965 Georgians.

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