Top Health Officials Warn Latest COVID Variant Could Be Worst Ever


By JOHN A. WINTERS, Publisher

Ninety-two percent of those being admitted to the state’s major hospitals are unvaccinated from COVID-19.

In addition, the virus is now having a greater impact on children and teens, and the Delta variant may end up being the most dangerous to date. 

That’s the consensus of top doctors from Piedmont Healthcare, Grady Memorial Hospital, Emory Health Care, Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, Wellstar Health System and Northeast Georgia Health System, who spoke Thursday. 

Despite some dire predictions, all those speaking at the rare joint press conference said there are ways to stop this deadly surge: get vaccinated and practice the three Ws – wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance.

“The vaccine is the most concrete way to prevent this virus,” said Andy Miller with Georgia Health News. 

Dr. Danny Brandsetten, medical director at Wellstar, said the latest variant is impacting children and teens in much higher levels than before, and that there is a “major distinction between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.”

He added that the Delta variant is “rising to match or exceed” previous numbers. But like other speakers, “there is hope.”

For Piedmont Healthcare, which includes Piedmont Newnan, 96 percent of those being admitted are unvaccinated, and 97 percent of those in ICU are unprotected from the virus, according to Dr. Andy Jaffal, chief medical officer for Piedmont Newnan.

Coweta County’s full vaccination rate is 35 percent.

“The vaccine is the best way to protect your family and your loved ones,” he stressed. “If you are eligible, please do the right thing and get vaccinated.”

Like the other medical experts, Jaffal said they are increasingly seeing younger patients who are getting sicker quicker and being ventilated sooner.

Dr. Andy Jaffal, chief medical officer, Piedmont Healthcare

Added Dr. John Delzell, vice president of Medical Education with North Georgia, “this surge is worse than anything we have seen before.”

He urged people to get vaccinated and avoid large crowds. 

And on the topic of returning to school, Dr. Jim Fortenberry, chief medical officer for CHOA, urged people to stick to the basics: get a vaccine and practice the three Ws. He also said he supported the latest guidelines from the CDC regarding school.

Those guidelines state: “CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.”

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