By Aleks Gilbert
Read the article by Marietta Daily Journal
ATLANTA — A makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta will likely open this weekend.
The facility has been designed to hold 200 people at once, but its capacity can be increased to hold as many as 400 patients, said Ryan Loke, health care adviser to Gov. Brian Kemp.
Loke said the temporary hospital would cost about $21.5 million. Nick Visconti of PAE, the firm handling construction, said about a third of the total cost went to construction with the rest being used to pay for the site’s 200-plus medical personnel.
Gov. Brian Kemp and members of his staff toured the hospital Thursday afternoon. It is meant to accept coronavirus patients should hospitals run out of room in the weeks ahead, when the number of people infected with the virus is expected to peak.
At a press conference after the tour, Kemp said there is only one hospital in Georgia that is currently at capacity: Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany.
“We have a super-spreader issue down there, there’s as many fatalities or more in Albany, Georgia, than Atlanta —nobody would have ever thought that,” he said. “And that is the only place that I’m aware of in the state that has had a bed capacity issue. Everybody else, believe it or not — many of them are below capacity. Even though their COVID patients are going up slightly, their demand for bed space is continuing to go down a little bit.”
Epidemiologists have said the peak of the virus’ impact in Georgia will likely be at the beginning of May — just after Kemp’s shelter in place order is set to expire.
Kemp, pointing out that the predicted peak has been delayed several times, did not commit to extending his order.
“The data’s going to show us in the next week — will tell us a lot about where we are and where we’re headed,” he said. “I just can’t answer those questions right now, but we’re definitely looking at that.”
Epidemiologists have also said mass testing and contact tracing — through which the government tries to identify and then isolate everybody who has come in contact with a person known to have the virus — are two prerequisites to reopening the economy, which has effectively ground to a halt in Georgia and other parts of the country were governments have closed businesses in order to slow the spread of the virus.
“I feel a lot better not where we are with testing but where we’re going to be,” Kemp said, saying the state’s testing partners were continuing to increase their ability to process tests.
Regarding contact tracing, Kemp said the virus had spread beyond the state’s ability to identify everyone who might have been exposed to it.
“I don’t know that the (Georgia) Department of Public Health or any department of public health across the country has the ability to do that kind of tracing with a broad based population in their state,” he said. “We’re going to have to be able to ask our citizens to rely on technology to help us do that, and we have a lot of projects going on right now that will help with that effort, and hopefully we’ll have more to say about that in the days ahead.”
The governor said Georgians would have to be ready to continue social distancing for the foreseeable future — even if his shelter in place order expires and businesses are allowed to reopen.
“People are going to have to continue to social distance,” he said. “They’re going to have to be comfortable wearing a mask in facilities like this when there’s a lot of people or if they’re going to the grocery store and public places. … We’re probably not going to need to have large gatherings in the near term.”Follow us on Social Media