Governor deploys National Guard troops to hospitals across the state

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp has deployed more than 100 National Guardsmen to hospitals across the state to help with the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The members of the Georgia National Guard are being deployed to assist hospital staff as emergency rooms near capacity because of the virus.

“These guardsmen will assist our front-line health care workers as they provide quality medical care during the current increase in cases and hospitalizations, and I greatly appreciate General (Tom) Carden and his team for their willingness to answer the call again in our fight against COVID-19,” Kemp said.

“This Georgia National Guard mission is in addition to the 2,800 state-supported staff and 450 new beds brought online I announced last week, at a total state investment of $625 million through December of this year. I continue to urge all Georgians to talk to a medical professional about getting vaccinated.”

The head of Georgia’s National Guard told Channel 2′s Tony Thomas that those soldiers and airmen could arrive as early as Tuesday at the 10 hard-hit hospitals — including Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville.

Gainesville was one of the original COVID-19 hot spots in Georgia and is once again. But doctors say the crisis is now self-inflicted.

“From our standpoint the biggest contributor is the spread of the virus in the unvaccinated population in the community,” said Dr. John Delzell with the Northeast Georgia Hospital System.

“Has to be frustrating?” Thomas asked Delzell.

“Well, it is. It’s self-inflicted,” Delzell said.

Delzell said space and staffing are his biggest concerns as his four facilities stare down another COVID-19 surge.

“Everyone is really tired. It’s really never gone away,” Delzell said.

Help is on the way though. Georgia’s governor is sending 105 National Guardsmen to 10 hard hit hospitals, including Northeast Georgia Medical and four others in metro Atlanta.

“How long do you expect this deployment to be?” Thomas asked Maj. Gen. Thomas Carden with the Georgia National Guard.

“As long as it needs to be,” Carden said. “The first groups we are sending out are medics, some are doctors.”

Delzell said the extra help will especially be needed in the coming days as the surge in Gainesville is expected to only get worse for the next few weeks.

Right now, there are 154 COVID-19 patients in the Gainesville facility. More than 80% are unvaccinated, with

more than 90% of the COVID-19 patients in ICU never having gotten a shot.

“If you think there is an end in sight, it’s really easier to buckle down and handle all the stress and the people dying and families under stress,” Delzell said.

Here is the full list of hospitals where the Guard will be deployed:

  • Southeast Georgia Health System, Brunswick
  • Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Gainesville
  • Wellstar Kennestone, Marietta
  • Piedmont Henry, Stockbridge
  • Phoebe Putney, Albany
  • Memorial Health University Medical Center, Savannah
  • Navicent Health, Macon
  • Grady Hospital, Atlanta
  • Piedmont Fayette, Fayetteville
  • Houston Medical Center, Warner Robins

Grady Health System released a statement Tuesday welcoming the help from the governor:

“Grady greatly appreciates the National Guard assistance provided by Governor Kemp. The addition of guard personnel to our team will help us provide care to our patients coming into the emergency room. We continue to see unprecedented volumes of both COVID patients and other critical needs. As Atlanta’s level one trauma center, we receive an exceedingly high number of trauma, stroke, burn and medical patients and those patients don’t stop coming during a pandemic. Grady hospital is over capacity, our emergency room is at critical mass but Team Grady will continue to work tirelessly to provide exceptional care to all who come through our doors. The guard personnel is a much needed additional resource to continue doing just that.

“It is our hope, however, that every Georgian talks to their healthcare provider and gets vaccinated against COVID-19. Over 90% of our hospitalized patients are unvaccinated. We know the vaccines are effective, safe, and Georgia’s strongest defense against the virus.

“We’re offering the COVID-19 vaccine to the community. Walk in Monday – Friday, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. to Grady’s main entrance or any of our neighborhood health centers, and get your vaccination. No appointment is needed and there is no charge for the vaccine. Anyone age 12 and older can get the shot. Together, we can slow the spread of COVID.”