Help Us Protect Cobb

coronavirus under electron microscopeCoronavirus under electron microscope (image by Felipe Esquivel Reed, licensed under CC-SA 4.0)

The following article was submitted to the Cobb County Courier on behalf of Lisa Cupid, Chair, Cobb County Board of Commissioners; Sharon Mason, President and CEO, Cobb Chamber of Commerce; Callie Andrews, SVP and President, Wellstar Cobb Hospital; and Mary Chatman, EVP and President, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital.

COVID-19. Global pandemic. Coronavirus. PPE. Community spread.

For ten long months, we have heard about these topics in our community, state, nation, and world, often to the point where we just don’t want to hear about them anymore. It’s what many are calling “COVID fatigue.” For those people who adopted recommended safety measures early on, perhaps you have grown tired of wearing a mask, not going to restaurants, and not seeing family and friends.

For those who never adopted safety measures, perhaps you prefer to live “normally” since you figure your or your family’s risk of getting infected or being ill from COVID is relatively low. After all, the mortality rate is fairly low, right, so how bad is COVID, really?

There is so much information circulating – and so much misinformation – that it’s difficult to know what’s real; and what’s not. Additionally, some people don’t pay attention until COVID has affected them personally.

President and CEO, Cobb Chamber of CommerceCobb County, the impact is real, and it’s now very personal to our community.

Wellstar Cobb and Kennestone hospitals – our community hospitals, staffed compassionately 24/7/365 by our neighbors, friends, and family, and the recent recipients of many awards and accolades – are seeing a significant surge in patient volume, many very critical. Both hospitals are operating above 100% capacity due to limitations of the available workforce. Approximately one-third of the patients are COVID-positive, 50% of the patients in the full ICU at Wellstar Cobb Hospital are COVID patients, and 36% of the patients in the full ICU at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital are COVID patients.

That is far too many.

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients require intensive resources – often more than other patients – and many are very, very ill, with complex medical conditions either caused or made worse by the virus.

These are our beloved neighbors, friends, and family from right here in Cobb.

And we are only at the beginning of seeing cases from gatherings and kids coming home from college for the holidays. The numbers are rising, alarmingly. The trajectory of cases and hospitalizations for the coming few months is concerning, especially with the recent Christmas holiday and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Wellstar Health System is one of the largest health systems in Georgia, with extensive resources to help balance the load and serve our community with high-quality and compassionate care. The 11-hospital system has prepared for surge scenarios like the one we are currently facing and can shift resources where they are needed. Still, the virus is spreading significantly across the state, which impacts not only our healthcare workers but everyone in our community.

We must act together to Protect Cobb immediately. It’s an explicit plea so we can flatten the curve here in our community and at our local hospital. The hospital needs our support in this moment, and so do the families and friends of those who have fallen ill or died, as well as everyone who has the potential to contract COVID … and possibly succumb to it. The way the virus is currently spreading, that means every single one of us.

  1. We must work together to do what’s right, to care for our community. Now is the time to band together to stop the spread. It is possible to support our businesses *and* keep each other safe, and that is what we need to do.
  2. Please start wearing a mask when you are around other people. It has proven to slow the spread of the virus. In fact, we are seeing that it may be preventing the spread of the flu, too. It works, and it will help Protect Cobb.
  3. We ask that you also think about how to minimize gatherings with other people. Getting together in groups – both large and small gatherings – without masks and social distancing is a big part of what is driving the rampant spread of COVID-19. Small family and friend gatherings are a particular issue because people tend to relax their safety measures, which increases transmission. Using technology for meetings and get-togethers – or at least wearing masks and keeping your distance – for a few more months *will* help Protect Cobb.

While we wait for broad vaccine distribution and levels of community immunity over the coming months – which will be a critical line of defense to protect people, our communities, and our healthcare systems – the best treatment we have right now is prevention. It is urgent for our community that we do things differently for the moment so we can Protect Cobb … together.

By: Lisa Cupid, Chair, Cobb County Board of Commissioners

Sharon Mason, President and CEO, Cobb Chamber of Commerce

Callie Andrews, SVP and President, Wellstar Cobb Hospital

Mary Chatman, EVP and President, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital