Dear citizens of Columbus and surrounding communities:
The current COVID-19 situation in our community is dire. Our hospital is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 positive patients, and we need your help to curb the spread of this virus by getting a vaccine.
At St. Francis-Emory Healthcare, we are treating more than 65 patients who are positive for COVID-19, and the vast majority are unvaccinated.
In the state of Georgia, only 44 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. The vaccination rate in Columbus specifically is even lower, with only 35 percent of the population fully vaccinated. This is putting an extreme burden on our local healthcare system. In addition to managing the rapid increase of COVID-19 patients, we continue to care for the ongoing, non-COVID-19 healthcare needs of our community. I am concerned for my team and our communities because the current environment is unsustainable.
Like our neighboring hospitals and health systems, we are all operating at the edge of our capacity. We are facing the same challenges and working to provide the best care for our communities. It is unfortunate that anyone would insinuate otherwise. Now, more than ever, is the time for unity to support the health of our communities.
If you have already been vaccinated, thank you for doing your part. Not only is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective at reducing the likelihood of contracting the virus, being hospitalized or dying, it has now received approval from the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). With the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older, we expect the approval of other vaccines will soon follow.
If you are still on the fence about getting vaccinated, I encourage you to discuss your hesitation with your physician or another member of the medical community. I am proud that the majority of our physicians and employees are vaccinated because they know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and because they support their use.
Each vaccine administered is a bed saved for someone having a heart attack, stroke or other medical emergency. We have seen firsthand how vaccines protect against this virus and share in the burden COVID-19 has placed on our community which is why we encourage you to be a part of the solution.
Additionally, we strongly encourage our community to take other precautions that we know are effective in slowing the spread of the virus, including wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and continuing proper hand hygiene. When ALL these measures are consistently practiced, they will help lower the transmission rate and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our community.
Even amid this public health emergency, we strongly urge our community not to delay essential and emergency care. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1 or head to the nearest ER. You may experience longer wait times, but you will be seen. If your condition is less severe and not life-threatening, please consider seeking care and treatment at an urgent care clinic or your primary care provider’s office so ER staff can focus on the most critical needs.
St. Francis-Emory Healthcare, in partnership with the West Central Health District of the Georgia Department of Public Health, will be hosting three vaccine clinics in the coming weeks:
Individuals can receive a COVID-19 vaccination from the comfort of their own car. If you are unable to make these time, please visit https://westcentralhealthdistrict.com to find a vaccine near you. On behalf of our team of healthcare heroes at St. Francis, I urge our community to act now and get vaccinated against COVID-19. We need you, just like you need us.
CEO, St. Francis-Emory Healthcare