ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Hospital leaders at Phoebe said the COVID-19 situation has been much improved these days, but that doesn't mean it's time for people to let their guards down.
Scott Steiner, Chief Executive Officer of Phoebe Putney Health System, said they firmly believe that people staying home, social distancing, and wearing masks in public has helped slow down Southwest Georgia’s COVID-19 outbreak.
At the end of March and the first week of April, Steiner said Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany saw about 30 to 45 COVID-19 patients every day who were sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.
As of Thursday, April 30, they had not seen more than 10 COVID-19 patients admitted on any given day in the seven days prior.
Steiner said that during the last full week of April, they average about one COVID-19 patient admitted to the hospital every hour.
That's much lower than the five COVID-19 patients admitted per hour that they saw four weeks ago.
However, on Wednesday, April 29, Phoebe saw nine COVID-19 patients in Albany who were sick enough to be put in the hospital.
"These are nine people that were most likely infected at the end of last week or this last weekend, and that were serious enough to need hospitalization," he explained. "The virus is still here in our community, and this is not the time to let our guard down. We have positive trends, but by no means is the virus gone."
Steiner said he believes Albany is on the other side of the peak, but he said there are still a lot of unknowns.
"Where we're going to be on June 1st, July 1st, August 1st, I don't know," he explained. "Undoubtedly, this virus will continue to be in our community. We're planning on continuing to treat people for it. We hope we don't surge. We're praying that we don't surge, but we're preparing just in case we do."
Steiner said Thursday that there were about 30 COVID-19 patients in the ICU in Albany.
That's compared to more than 50 patients at the height of the outbreak.
He said that many of those patients who are still in the ICU have been there for several weeks.
Steiner explained that they are not seeing as many COVID-19 patients who need to go to the ICU immediately coming into the Albany hospitals.
So far, they've seen more than 25 people get well enough to come off the ventilators and out of the ICU.
Some of them have gotten well enough to go home.
Steiner said none of this means people can go back to their "old normal." He said the curve of new COVID-19 cases is flat right now in Albany, but everyone needs to continue with the "new normal," which includes wearing masks in public, washing our hands much more frequently and socially distancing ourselves from others, in order for the numbers of new cases each day to decline.
Hospital leaders at Phoebe said they hope to have the temporary medical facility behind Phoebe North fully staffed within the next 10 days.
State emergency and health officials along with Gov. Brian Kemp’s office coordinated the construction and staffing of the modular facility.
It will provide 24 medical beds for COVID-19 patients.
Steiner said he believes it has been easier to find space and supplies for additional bed space for COVID-19 patients, but finding more staffing for critical care has been a struggle.
He said he is optimistic that this additional space at Phoebe North won't be needed.
"In the end, I hope we don't have to use any of it," he explained. "That means that our community continues to heal. But, we've got it, and we're working hard to be able to utilize it if need be."
Phoebe and the state have already stood up 20 new ICU beds and 14 new medical beds inside the main Phoebe North building.
There are currently several COVID-19 patients being treated there.
Steiner said they are expecting to double that capacity within the existing Phoebe North facility in the next 10 days as well.