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Lunneborg: “Delta spreads two times more quickly than any other variant of the Coronavirus that we have dealt with”

AMERICUS – During her weekly COVID update on Friday, August 20, Phoebe Sumter Medical Center CEO Brandi Lunneborg stated that the Coronavirus Delta Variant spreads two times more quickly than any other variant of the virus that the hospital has dealt with. Lunneborg also stated that during a conference call she was on earlier today with Georgia Department of Public Health Director Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Dr. Toomey stated that virtually 100 percent of the COVID cases that hospitals in Georgia are dealing with are Delta Variant cases.

Lunneborg also stated that the situation here locally in Sumter County has not improved since her last update a week ago.

“We now have 34 patients hospitalized here at Phoebe Sumter, which is double what I reported to you last week,” Lunneborg said. “This has stressed our hospital beyond capacity. We are doing our best to accommodate everyone, but it’s often a day-by-day, hour-by-hour situation.”

She went on to apologize for the long delays, but that the hospital’s clinicians and staff are doing the best they can to try to keep up. “Please understand! We’re doing the best we can with the significant volume of patients needing our services,” Lunneborg said.

Sadly, Lunneborg had to report that this week, two patients at the hospital died of COVID-related illnesses. “Our hearts go out to their friends and family. We’re sad to have to report that,” Lunneborg said. She added that the hospital’s critical care unit is full and that other critical care patients are waiting to get into the critical care unit, which, in her words, is not a good sign.

Lunneborg continued by saying that there are currently 10 patients at the hospital on ventilators fighting for their lives and that the average age of people being admitted into the hospital for COVID-related issues has dropped to 57. She also stated that the hospital admitted a patient suffering from COVID who is under the age of 20. “Those who are younger and generally healthier are still often needing admission and of the 34 patients we currently have in the hospital, only two are vaccinated,” Lunneborg said.

She stated that while the partially vaccinated rate for Sumter County has increased up to 45 percent, that means there are only 1,500 newly vaccinated people in the county since early July. It also means that a 45 percent vaccination rate means that one out of every two people that one meets in the community either hasn’t been vaccinated at all or has only been partially vaccinated.

According to Lunneborg, in the past, one person might infect two people with COVID, but with the Delta Variant, one person can easily infect five people.

However, Lunneborg stressed that it is not too late to get vaccinated and that at the event at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church last Saturday, August 14, 62 were vaccinated. For those who want to get vaccinated, Lunneborg said that they can schedule an appointment by calling 229-312-6963. She also added that if a church organization or business would like to speak with a physician or schedule a vaccination event to try and increase the vaccination rate in Sumter County, Phoebe Sumter will be happy to provide its services for that and they can reach out to the hospital’s Director of Community Relations, Marcus Johnson. He can be reached at 229-931-6812.

In her closing remarks, Lunneborg stated that Phoebe Sumter is still providing monoclonal antibody treatments six to seven days a week because of the high volume of referrals and that those who would like to undergo these treatments need to call their healthcare providers early within 10 days of experiencing symptoms.

“Ensure you get tested and ask about whether you meet the criteria for this treatment. It saves lives and it continues to be our only early treatment for COVID-19 to avoid hospitalizations,” Lunneborg said.

Finally, Lunneborg stated that Phoebe Sumter is working with the Department of Health to try to expand testing for COVID-19 in Sumter County because of the significant increase of the virus throughout the county. She also stressed that if anyone gets exposed to the virus, they need to be tested and quarantined so that the virus will not spread to anyone else. “The uncontrolled spread of COVID right now is our greatest enemy in our community,” Lunneborg said. “Please wear your masks indoors in public spaces, even if you’re vaccinated. That is the new recommendation from the CDC.” Lunneborg also vehemently stressed the importance of maintaining social distancing and to practice good hand hygiene (Wash your hands!). “Help us save lives!” Lunneborg said. “Returning to those best practices helps us reduce the spread that is critical right now for the safety of our community.”