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Nurse Manager Betsy Ross inspects a patient room Monday, July 20, 2020, inside the mobile COVID-19 unit at the Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Ga. The unit, constructed from modular buildings by the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency went into operation Tuesday, July 21, 2020, amid high numbers of COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state. (Scott Rogers/The Gainesville Times via AP)

The need for critical care beds in Northwest Georgia is increasing as the coronavirus continues to spread in the state.

As of Thursday, there were 11 critical care beds available in a nine-county region in Northwest 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 critical care beds can fluctuate. On average, the number can range between 45 and 50.

The state reported Wednesday that 39 critical care beds were being used out of a total of 46, or 85%. That meant seven critical care beds were available, the lowest number of available ICU beds in the region in months.

Overnight, the region's capacity increased by three ICU beds. On Thursday, the state reported 38 of 49 critical care beds were in use.

Nancy Nydam, spokesperson with the department of public health, said the changes are caused by a couple of reasons.

"As patients are admitted [and] discharged, the availability of beds will fluctuate," Nydam said.

All hospitals in the state have "surge" plans, Nydam said. Surge plans involve spaces that hospitals can use for in-patient care if needed.

"For example, perhaps an area they use for outpatient services on a regular day can be used as in-patient space or an in-patient room that was built as a 'double' room that the hospital has used as a private room normally can be switched back to a double room," Nydam said. "No additional space is built, they just flex as much as they can. That is how it appears that beds are 'added' or 'lost.'"

(READ MORE: Where COVID-19 cases are rising and falling in the Chattanooga region)

The 11 available beds represent 22% of critical care beds available in the nine counties.

Statewide, there are 13% of critical care beds available as the coronavirus continues to spread around the state.

This backs up a trend that public health officials in the state have worried about in the last few weeks. As cases in Whitfield, Walker and Catoosa counties increased, hospitalizations and deaths stayed steady. However, officials feared it was only a matter of time before people would start checking into hospitals as the virus spread in the community.

In Whitfield County — where the outbreak has been the most dire in Northwest Georgia — there had been 50 hospitalizations on June 30, according to the state. Halfway through July, that number had reached 88. As of Thursday afternoon, hospitalizations hit 114 in the county.

The state's numbers for available ER beds look better with 46% available, as well as ventilators, at 57% available.

As of Thursday afternoon, 82% of general in-patient beds were in use.

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

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