Dear Community Members,
I want to address you not only as the Chief Medical Officer of Colquitt Regional Medical Center, but as a pulmonology and critical care physician who has treated many of the most serious patients during this pandemic. Similar to other hospitals around the region and around our country, we are in a crisis of unprecedented circumstances.
Our community is experiencing another massive surge in COVID-19 infections. We have seen a sharp increase in positive COVID-19 cases at Colquitt Regional and Sterling Physician Group testing sites over the past three weeks. The hospital is over capacity despite around-the-clock efforts to create additional space for patient care.
As of today, August 13, we have 113 inpatients in our 99-bed facility and 55 of those are COVID-19 positive. Our community healthcare system has never experienced this much patient volume.
Throughout the earlier stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 seemed to be a virus that largely plagued those older than 65 years or those with significant medical issues. That no longer is the case. In our hospital, the average age of COVID-19 positive patients is now at 54 years old and many of them are without medical issues. In addition to managing a healthier cohort, patients who are hospitalized are more likely to have severe disease compared to previous surges. This is an alarming trend.
Cases are continuing to increase on a daily basis; there seems to be no end in sight. Our employees are exhausted both physically and emotionally from the effects of this ongoing pandemic. These frontline heroes serve every day ensuring that our loved ones are cared for with the best of care and with the greatest respect and compassion. Still, in the spirit of transparency, many of our frontline workers have broken spirits.
It is with sincere concern for your health and the overall health of our community, that I strongly plead for you and your loved ones to get the COVID-19 vaccine. These vaccinations are safe and effective. We would never advocate for a treatment that we did not believe served the healthcare interests of our area.
At this time, only about 30% of the residents in Colquitt County are fully vaccinated. This is far behind the national average of 50% and state average of 41%.
We know that many people have appropriate hesitations or concerns about this vaccine. However, we are here to make sure that you have the most accurate information to make an informed decision.
Please take the following statistics into consideration:
• Vaccinated patients who do get COVID-19 infection have far less severe infections and a shorter duration of illness (2.3 days). Less than 2% require hospitalization.
• Fully vaccinated patients represent far less than 1% of the total deaths from COVID-19 infection in the United States. None of the critically ill patients in our hospital at this time are vaccinated.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as Department of Public Health (DPH) strongly advocate for vaccinations as they are safe and effective.
I have been at the bedside of too many critically ill patients who have died from this illness. Young and old, this unyielding virus has wrecked so many lives. At this time, the vaccine is the most powerful weapon we have available to fight against COVID-19. As a father, son, community member, friend, and physician who deeply cares for your well-being, I am asking you to receive your COVID-19 vaccine.
Please call the Colquitt Regional COVID-19 Hotline at 229-891-9380 for any questions/concerns and to help schedule your vaccine appointment. Join us in the effort to move beyond this pandemic.
Michael Davidson Brown, MD, MBA, FCCP, is chief medical officer and a pulmonary and critical care physician at Colquitt Regional Medical Center.