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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Civic Center Complex Manager Michael Smith helps pass out masks at the Walker County Civic Center on Monday, July 27, 2020 in Rock Spring, Ga.

Tifton, Georgia, a small city in the south central part of the state, is just shy of 300 miles away from Chattanooga.

On Monday, Chris Dorman — CEO of the Tift Regional Medical Center — told the Tifton Gazette that the coronavirus was "back with a vengeance" and that all the critical care beds in his nine-county region were full.

Due to the capacity issues not only in Tifton area but nearly everywhere in Georgia, Dorman was desperate to admit patients to intensive care unit beds. Dorman looked north toward Tennessee.

"The nearest ICU bed I could find when I was trying to transfer a patient out was in Chattanooga," Dorman told the Tifton newspaper. "Most of the hospitals in Georgia, especially the larger hospitals, are at or around diversion status. They might have one bed, but most of the ICU areas are full."

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 critical care beds can fluctuate. On average, the number can range between 45 and 50.

The state reports that of the 49 ICU beds available in Region A, 42 are being used. Two of the regions in East Georgia and Central Georgia only had one available, according to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.

In an even bigger sample size, the North Georgia Health District has 10 counties — Bartow, Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker counties. Logan Bass, spokesman with the health district, said Wednesday afternoon there were 145 of 151 critical beds (96%) being used.

That health district does not include Whitfield County, which as been dealing with the worst coronavirus outbreak in the region and has seen hospitalization numbers steadily increase over the last three weeks.

Officials with regional medical centers like Dorman have said the state's reporting data has lagged, giving reason to believe that the critical care bed situation in the state is worse than shown.

The Brunswick News reported patients waiting to be seen in the ER were instead waiting outside in ambulances. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Tifton's regional medical center was treating six ER patients in the hallway earlier this week.

Statewide, 88% of all ICU beds were being used Tuesday, tying the highest level since the pandemic began, and 80% of general inpatient beds were being used.

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

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