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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / CHI Memorial Hospital Georgia at 100 Gross Crescent is shown on March 23, 2020.

Public health officials in Northwest Georgia are keeping a close eye on the bed capacity of nearby hospitals as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

Hospital beds — both critical care and general population — are quickly filling up around Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Public Health splits the state up into 14 different hospital regions. In Region A — which includes Dade, Walker, Catoosa, Whitfield, Murray, Gordon, Fannin, Gilmer and Pickens counties — the number of intensive care unit beds can fluctuate. On average, the number can range between 45 and 50.

Since the beginning of December, the region has fluctuated between 39 and 41 ICU beds in use, which is over the alarming 90% capacity rate. The state reported 40 ICU beds being used as of Monday.

The worst stretch for hospitalizations and ICU bed capacity was in July when 42 beds were in use for over a week. Now the region is on the cusp of another capacity emergency.

In an even bigger region, the North Georgia Health District has 10 counties — Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker counties. Logan Boss, spokesperson for the health district, said Monday afternoon that 97% of hospital beds were being used.

Boss added the situation in Paulding County is even worse where "over 100%" of the beds are being used. Boss said health care workers are having to use emergency room beds as a secondary option for patients.

Dr. Pablo Perez of the Hamilton Health Care System — who has made unsuccessful pleas for a countywide mask mandate — told the Daily Citizen-News his hospital "will not have the space or human resources to serve its population with dignity."

Data from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency updated at midnight shows that 234 of 337 general inpatient beds are in use, or 69.4%.

The region — and the state — is in a good position with ventilators. Region A is using about 14% of available ventilators. Statewide that number is 31%.

Whitfield County broke its single-day record on Friday when 159 new coronavirus cases were reported. The previous single-day record was 137 on Nov. 12.

Whitfield County is now averaging over 98 new cases every day on a seven-day average, easily the highest mark since the beginning of the pandemic. The state health department also reported seven new deaths in the county, its deadliest of the pandemic. As of Monday, 94 people had died due to the coronavirus in Whitfield County.

Murray County added two deaths and 24 new cases on Monday. The seven-day average in Murray County is 27 new cases a day.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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