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ing, Meadows reported 36 patients in house who were being treated for COVID. Twelve of these patients were on ventilators. “That is the highest number in the history of our organization,” McColl said. “Every bed in our ICU is occupied and four patients are on ventilators in our PCU.”

Doctors at Meadows say the most effective way to stay out of the hospital with COVID-19 is to get vaccinated – right now.

“The vaccine has proven to be safe and it works. The vast majority of COVID- 19 patients in our hospital are unvaccinated,” Mc-Coll said. Of the 36 patients now being treated, only three have been vaccinated and those patients are not on ventilators.

Currently, more than 64% of the inpatients at Meadows are being treated for COVID-19. “That’s a record for this pandemic,” McColl said.

Last week 44 patients were being treated for COVID at Meadows. Since then, five of those patients have passed away and several others have been transferred to Atlanta for advanced care, McColl said.

The hospital has started providing monoclonal antibody infusions for those patients whose primary care physicians provide referrals. In these cases, patients are exhibiting mild symptoms, have been recently diagnosed, and must have tested positive for COVID. Vaccination status is not a factor.

To help with the influx of patient, Meadows has temporarily closed the Immediate Care Office and moved those clinicians to the hospital.

“We’ve also had to send some COVID-19 patients to other HCA Healthcare Hospitals in Georgia and South Carolina,” said Meadows CEO Matt Hasbrouck. “We are fortunate to have the support of HCA Healthcare.” “It’s no coincidence that our community vaccination rate is low and our COVID-19 hospitalization rate is high,” Dr. McColl added. “We need everyone’s help. We need people to get vaccinated.” Memorial Health Meadows Hospital is operating a public vaccination clinic at 1707 Meadows Lane, Suite A (2nd Floor), Vidalia, GA 30474. To schedule an appointment for a free vaccination, call (912) 535-SAFE (7233) or visit www.memorialhealth. com/covid-19/covid-19-vaccine-information/.

The Schools

In a shocking announcement Friday, Ware County Schools announced it was sending teachers and students home until September because of a sharp increase in cases of COVID-19. The school district reported 76 students are currently positive for COVID-19 and 679 more are in quarantine due to possible exposure. In this area, no schools have suspended classes because of the virus, but the number of COVID cases is beginning to climb. At Vidalia City Schools, 14 students were COVID positive and 101 were quarantined. The system has a total of 2,504 students and 338 staff. None of the staff were COVID positive and only two had been quarantined for exposure.

At Toombs County School System, 29 students out of a total of 2,945 have current positive COVID status. Nine of the system’s 406 employees have tested positive for COVID.

On Friday afternoon, Wheeler County School Superintendent Suzanne Couey announced that the system’s Prekindergarten program would begin on Monday, August 16 as planned. The program had been delayed because of the number of COVID cases among the Pre-K staff.

The system began classes on August 9, rather than the original date of August 6, because a number of COVID cases had broken out among staff and students. The system had also had to make adjustments on bus routes because some school bus drivers had tested positive for COVID.

The system mandated that all students and staff wear masks throughout the school day and on buses in an effort to keep exposure to the highly contagious virus at a minimum. This mandate resulted in a few parents attending last week’s School Board session to protest the mandate; however, the Board did not rescind the mandate.

In a weekly report on its web site Friday, August 13, the Wheeler System reported 51 students and 16 staff were quarantined (including current and previous week) and 16 staff. Three students and four staff members were positive for COVID-19.

Montgomery County Schools reported five total current COVID positive cases: teachers, 4; students, 3; and other staff, 1. A total of 46 are quarantined, including 3 teachers and 43 students.

Information for Robert Toombs Academy and Vidalia Heritage Academy was not available at deadline.

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