Georgia announces $100M for hospitals amid COVID-19 surge

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday that the state will spend $100 million to boost hospital staffing and deploy 200 National Guard troops to help at coronavirus testing sites and hospitals amid an explosion of new infections in the state.

Georgia reported 13,670 positive COVID-19 tests Tuesday, breaking the state’s previous one-day reporting record. That increased Georgia’s seven-day average of positive tests to 9,798, a huge escalation from a month ago, when Georgia was recording fewer than 1,000 positive tests a day.

This fifth wave has passed both an early January peak as well as the delta wave that roared through Georgia as schools opened in August and September.

“This will be a challenge really across the country over the next two or three weeks,” Kemp said at a news conference. “But as fast as it’s moving, hopefully this will be a shorter life span than what we’ve seen in the past.”

Kemp said the $100 million could mean up to 1,000 additional personnel for hospitals, with assignments effective for 13 weeks. Half the 200 National Guard troops will also assist hospitals.

Deployment of the 200 troops will begin Jan. 3. The state Department of Public Health, additionally, is expanding staffing at COVID-19 test sites and working to secure a new testing site near Atlanta’s airport, Kemp said.

But the Republican governor reiterated his opposition to mandates, saying he will not be implementing any measures that shutter businesses or divide the vaccinated from the unvaccinated or masked from the unmasked.

The rapid rise in cases has not yet resulted in hospitals being overrun, although the number of COVID-19 patients is climbing, rising to nearly 2,400 statewide Wednesday. Both infections and hospitalizations have been centered in the Atlanta area and parts of north Georgia so far.

The Department of Public Health and hospital officials urged people not to go to emergency rooms just for COVID-19 tests.