A look at major COVID-19 developments: Hospitals overwhelmed

Trey Roseman, 10, uses a laptop as he waits to join his online class from his home in Atlanta. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trey and his sister Mia, 7, have been attending school virtually. Trey enjoys doing school from home, while Mia would prefer to be in a classroom, says their mother, Rachel Roseman. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Trey Roseman, 10, uses a laptop as he waits to join his online class from his home in Atlanta. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trey and his sister Mia, 7, have been attending school virtually. Trey enjoys doing school from home, while Mia would prefer to be in a classroom, says their mother, Rachel Roseman. (Casey Sykes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Casey Sykes

Credit: Casey Sykes

Georgia is experiencing its third wave of the coronavirus, and the latest surge has surpassed the previous ones in both confirmed infections and hospitalizations.

COVID-19 cases are swamping Georgia hospitals, testing them in every way. Hospital officials say that they are already forced to decide which patients receive scarce resources. But those decisions could become more grave with projections showing that hospitalizations will continue to climb in the weeks ahead.

State officials decided to reopen a field hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Meanwhile, doses of the coronavirus vaccines started to arrive at senior homes and other long-term care facilities in Georgia, a watershed moment amid the raging pandemic. And more big news on the vaccine front: In perhaps as soon as two weeks, vaccinations may be available for people 65 and older, police officers and other first responders.

Here’s a look at other major COVID-19 developments over the past week.

Vaccines to be offered to more people

State officials unveiled a plan to provide COVID-19 vaccines to more Georgians earlier than anticipated.

Although health care workers in some areas are still waiting to be inoculated, officials said they’re ready to begin offering the vaccines to those 65 and older, police officers and firefighters.

In some parts of Georgia, all the health care workers who want to be vaccinated have been and there are doses left over, state officials said. It makes sense to get those to people in the same area at particularly high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, they said.

In this file photo, Robin Coffey, a registered nurse with Whitfield Board of Health, holds a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the Whitfield County Health Department in Dalton. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
In this file photo, Robin Coffey, a registered nurse with Whitfield Board of Health, holds a Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine at the Whitfield County Health Department in Dalton. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

ExploreCORONAVIRUS IN GEORGIA/COMPLETE COVERAGE

State officials said they will soon release more details about how those who are eligible can book an appointment.

Georgia Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam stressed access to the vaccine will be based on availability. Rural areas and some parts of the state, such as Valdosta, are more likely to have additional doses of the vaccine than metro Atlanta, where hospitals don’t have nearly enough doses to vaccinate their health care workers right now. Additional doses are set to arrive every week in Georgia.

So far, across the nation, fewer people have been vaccinated than projected by the Trump administration.

People over 65 alone make up 1.5 million people in Georgia, meaning a substantial ramp-up in supply would be required to vaccinate the entire senior population.

Vaccinations of health care workers started in Georgia earlier this month under the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed program.

In this file photo, the Moderna vaccine rollout on Dec. 22, 2020 is discussed by DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey (from left); Gov. Brian Kemp; Dr. Jonathan Lewin, CEO, Emory Healthcare; and Dr. Nadine Rouphael, lead investigator for the Moderna vaccine trial.  “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”
In this file photo, the Moderna vaccine rollout on Dec. 22, 2020 is discussed by DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey (from left); Gov. Brian Kemp; Dr. Jonathan Lewin, CEO, Emory Healthcare; and Dr. Nadine Rouphael, lead investigator for the Moderna vaccine trial. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Pandemic housing market solid for metro Atlanta

Despite the pandemic and the economic upheaval it’s causing, metro Atlanta home prices have risen 6.8% over the past 12 months, according to a much-watched national report.

The region’s home prices have doubled since hitting bottom in 2012 and are 21% higher than they were at the previous market peak, in July 2007, just before the burst of the housing bubble, according to the monthly index released by S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller.

Atlanta’s pace of increase came in behind the national average gain of 8.4%, according to Case-Shiller.

In metro Atlanta, demand has been strong in the city, but there are more homes listed in the suburbs and exurbs. Prices have risen both inside and outside the city limits.

A number of factors are at play, said economist Matthew Speakman of Zillow, the online listing and research firm. Mortgage rates have been at record lows, while a generation of millennials is “aging into homeownership,” he said.

With buyers far outnumbering sellers, prices have been rising steadily, especially for new construction.

Georgia launches a new vaccine hotline

Georgia has launched a new hotline to answer some questions from the public about coronavirus vaccines.

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s commissioner of public health, said DPH is fielding a high volume of calls from Georgians seeking basic information about the vaccines and the state’s vaccination plan.

Toomey said the hotline will provide Georgia residents with information such as when people will be eligible to get inoculated and where they can find a provider when the time comes.

Representatives also can provide information about the differences in the two vaccines that have received federal emergency use authorization and their safety and efficacy data, Toomey said.

The hotline phone number is 1-888-357-0169.

The DPH also has a vaccine webpage at www.dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

The webpage also includes articles on safety and effectiveness and a dashboard of data for current vaccine doses administered and the state’s allotment of doses.

Staff writers Eric Stirgus and Michael E. Kanell contributed to this report.

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