West Georgia’s hospitals continued to be stressed this week by record numbers of COVID patients, even as the vaccination rate for Carroll County continues to increase.

Across the Tanner Health System, there were a total of 109 COVID patients recorded, adding to those patients already being treated for various reasons and illnesses. During the height of the pandemic last year, the hospital system saw about 80-plus COVID patients.

The four hospitals in the system — Carrollton, Villa Rica, Bremen, and Wedowee — take in patients from across the west Georgia region, so the addition of COVID patients is an additional burden the facilities and staff must bear.

According to hospital officials, the majority of their COVID patients are unvaccinated against the virus. The vaccine is free and available from a large variety of sources.

Tanner reported on Wednesday that there were 67 COVID patients being treated at the Carrollton hospital, where there are 181 licensed beds. That means COVID patients occupy 37% of those beds. On Tuesday, Tanner reported that the Carrollton facility was at 145% occupancy.

Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica remains the most heavily impacted by the surge of COVID cases, which is blamed on the Delta variant of the virus, which is more easily transmitted and is more aggressive among the infected.

The Villa Rica facility is at 198% occupancy, Tanner said this week, with 34 COVID patients occupying 23.4% of its 145 licensed beds.

“We’re utilizing additional space, like pre/post rooms, to provide care,” Eric Dalton, vice president and administrator of the hospital told the Times-Georgian this week. “Overall, morale remains pretty good, considering our situation. We know we have a mission, and we’re focused on our patients — but the staff is tired.”

There were seven COVID patients recorded at Higgins General Hospital in Bremen, and one patient at Tanner Medical Center / East Alabama in Wedowee.

COVID patients do not always require hospitalization, but the most serious cases do. And the most acute of those are placed on ventilators to assist their breathing.

System wide, Tanner reported Tuesday that only four of its COVID patients were those who had been vaccinated. All 27 of the system’s patients on ventilators are unvaccinated.

Of the 115 COVID-related deaths recorded at the hospital since February — when the vaccines became widely available — only seven of those patients had been vaccinated.

However, the number of people being vaccinated in Carroll County has been steadily increasing since health officials began sounding the alarm about the Delta variant.

On July 10, there had been 65,896 vaccinations distributed in the county, with 30% of the county’s population receiving one dose of the two-dose vaccine, leaving only 27% fully vaccinated.

As of Friday, however, the state Department of Health was reporting 79,787 vaccinations, a 21% increase over the past two months.

This also means that the number of half-vaccinations has improved (37%), but less than one-third of the county (32%) are deemed fully vaccinated.

The full vaccination rates among the Georgia counties bordering Carroll has also slightly improved, but the rates for Haralson and Heard counties remain low, at 29% and 24% respectively.