18 Atlanta ERs Turning Away Patients As Georgia Reports Record COVID Test Positivity Rate

Some Atlanta emergency rooms are having to turn away patients due to a record surge in COVID-19 cases.

Eighteen hospitals, many of which belonged to three of the city's four major hospital systems, were reported to have been turning away ambulances. This refusal is attributed to these hospitals' emergency rooms hitting capacity with patients testing positive for COVID-19. Ten ERs in the area have been admitting patients, although the area is already expecting these rooms to fill up as well.

"We expect the increase to continue," said Northside Hospital spokeswoman Katherine Watson, "but don't know yet what the full impact will be to our inpatient census."

Atlanta's hospital district includes Cobb, Cherokee, Douglas and Paulding counties. In the entire district, a quarter of all patients recorded on Monday had COVID-19. However, that is just one section of the state; 50 percent of all patients hospitalized throughout the state were admitted because of the coronavirus. Positive PCR tests hit a high of nearly 31 percent on Monday.

The total number hospitalized neared 1,900 on Monday, the highest number recorded since the middle of October. Perhaps what makes this surge even more devastating was that it was predicted earlier this month by Georgia's healthcare officials.

"I'm very concerned," Dr. Harry Heiman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier in December. "It doesn't bode well for what's to come — unless we really redouble our efforts to not only increased the number of people who have had their primary vaccination series, but also boosters."

Overall, 1,362,530 cases of COVID-19 have been found around Georgia since the beginning of the pandemic. Out of those cases, there were 93,497 hospitalizations and 14,301 admissions into the ICU.

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Many hospitals in Atlanta are having to turn away ER patients due to their beds being occupied by COVID-19 patients. Above, the exteriors of Emory University Hospital on February 4, 2015, in Atlanta, Georgia. John E. Davidson

Amid overwhelming demand for COVID tests, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey warned people to make sure they are using a valid testing center and aren't being overcharged.

"Misinformation from unapproved COVID tests could result in people not following isolation and quarantine protocols and lead to further transmission of the virus and serious or life-threatening illness," Toomey said in a statement.

They also warned against accepting services from people going to door-to-door or approaching others on the street and said it could be a sign of a scam if someone tries to charge for an in-person test.

Georgians can find some testing sites at https://dph.georgia.gov/covidtesting, although that list may not include many private testing sites.

Carr said his office is aware of reports of overcharging for tests and urges consumers to report potential price gouging at consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Eighteen hospitals in the Atlanta area are turning away ambulances as COVID surges through the state. Above, medical staff member Mantra Nguyen sets up a ventilator for a patient in the COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at the United Memorial Medical Center on December 29, 2020, in Houston, Texas. Go Nakamura/Stringer