Leaders from most major hospitals in metro Atlanta joined together Thursday to plead with Georgians to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Top doctors also warned that a surge in patients could overwhelm hospitals as the delta variant spreads. GPB’s Ellen Eldridge reports.

Doctors in metro Atlanta give a joint press conference outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium Aug. 19, 2021

Doctors in metro Atlanta give a joint press conference outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Aug. 19, 2021. Each representative said their hospitals were strained by the delta variant surge of the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit: Wellstar Health System

Doctors say they expect the current COVID-19 surge to continue and that things will only get worse before getting better — until more Georgia residents get fully vaccinated against the disease.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Emory, Grady, Northeast Georgia, Piedmont and Wellstar were all represented Thursday at a joint press conference outside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Dr. Andy Jaffal is the chief medical officer with Piedmont Atlanta. He said 97% of COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit are unvaccinated. 

"I watched a 28-year-old previously healthy, unvaccinated patient die from COVID complications," Jaffal said. "And while we value every life, that one was tough because it could have been prevented."

Unlike before in the pandemic, patients are younger and sicker. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta currently has 31 children hospitalized with COVID-19.

Grady Health Systems Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Jansen said cases will continue to climb. 

"It's predicted that this delta variant surge will not abate until late September," Jansen said.

The doctors all reiterated the best way to protect members of the community and avoid overwhelming hospitals is to get vaccinated.

Most hospitals in Georgia are full or nearly full and many of the patients have COVID-19, which is already straining staff and resources.  

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Dr. Robert Jansen is the chief medical officer at Grady Health System. He said a colleague recently described a night shift in the emergency room as a “horror story.” 

"Our emergency room, like so many, [is] overrun right now," Jansen said. "We have more patients in the emergency department waiting for care than in almost any other time. And this is seen at every hospital in the city and across the state."

The public needs to keep in mind that patients are still coming in needing treatment for things like trauma, strokes, heart attacks and burns, Jansen said. Many hospitals are also canceling elective surgeries. 

Watch the entire press conference at Wellstar Health System's Facebook Page.