ambulance at night

State health officials: “Diversion” is not closure

by Robin Kemp

If you need to go to the emergency room, call 911. Period.

Georgia Department of Public Health officials say people have been calling the state’s ambulance traffic routing agency, the Georgia Coordinating Center, to ask whether hospitals “on diversion” are closed.

They are not–and you should not call that number. Call 911 if you are having a medical emergency.

What does it mean when a hospital is “on diversion?”

According to Georgia DPH, “diversion” applies only to ambulance traffic. It means that, temporarily, a hospital is asking ambulances to take patients elsewhere.

“Diversion” does not apply to individual patients having a medical emergency. If you or someone else is having a medical emergency, GDPH says, call 911.

How ambulance traffic works

If you wanted to know about a flight delay or a gate change, you would not call the air traffic control tower. The same principle applies to GCC.

Hospital ERs are like airport gates and ambulances are like planes. Someone has to tell the ambulances when and where to go. GCC is like the air traffic control tower at Hartsfield-Jackson. GCC is in constant contact with every hospital in the state, keeping track of how crowded each hospital is and what kinds of cases are incoming. Someone with a gunshot wound might need a trauma center. Someone with a broken finger might not. GCC juggles ambulance traffic accordingly.

With the highly-infectious Delta variant COVID-19 spreading, hospital emergency rooms throughout Georgia (and the nation) are at times unable to take more ambulance traffic. For example, the ICU might be full, even if other departments might have beds available. The ambulance would need to know where the closest available ICU bed is.

That is why the best and quickest way to get help in a medical emergency is to call 911. Let the experts figure out the logistics at any given moment.

In no case should any member of the public try to call the ambulance-routing agency.

911 operators completely different. They are trained to get important information that first responders and hospitals need to plan emergency response and treatment. They also offer lifesaving guidance over the phone as part of the process while the ambulance is on the way.

Learn first aid

One way you can help support your local first responders is to learn first aid. Knowing what to do for someone while you wait for the ambulance can save that person’s life or prevent further injury and buys precious time while you’re waiting for the ambulance to get there.

If you’re trying to limit your own exposure to COVID-19, it’s possible to complete some or all of your first aid training online:

  • The American Red Cross offers a range of moderately-priced, online-only classes, including first aid, CPR/AED for adults, first aid for severe bleeding, opioid overdose, infant and child first aid/CPR/AED, anaphylaxis and epinephrine auto-injector use, and psychological first aid for yourself and others during COVID-19.
  • U.S. Law Shield, which sells insurance to firearms owners, offers an online version of its gunshot wound first-aid course.
  • You also can search for upcoming Stop The Bleed courses near you. These courses run 90 minutes, are free or low-cost, and teach you how to control severe bleeding. You can request Stop The Bleed training for your group or club, as well, and part of the training is now offered online.

Wear a mask

Medical experts continue to urge everyone to wear a mask in enclosed public spaces or crowded outdoor areas. A mask prevents the spread of visible and invisible droplets that come out of your mouth and nose whenever you cough, breathe, sigh, speak, sing, whistle, whisper, or yell. The COVID-19 virus rides from person to person in those droplets. When it hits the jackpot by entering a person’s body, it starts making copies of itself (replicating) and attacking the body. The process repeats itself when that person coughs, breathes, sighs, speaks, sings, whistles, whispers, or yells.

The more the virus spreads and replicates, the sooner it adapts to its environment. It adapts by mutating into a newer, stronger version. That’s why the Delta variant is infecting more people and why those people are getting sicker.

Medical experts say the Delta variant of COVID-19 is seven times more contagious than the original version. In other words, one person with the Delta variant of COVID-19 tends to infect seven other people–not just one.

By wearing a mask, you deny the virus access to your body as well as the bodies of other people around you. The more people who wear masks, the fewer places the virus has to breed and grow stronger.

Get vaccinated if you can

Similarly, vaccination makes your body less welcoming to any COVID-19 virus that manages to get inside you. You can still carry the virus and spread it to others, but your body is better prepared to fight it off. If you were vaccinated against the early version of COVID-19 and catch a later version, you might get sick but you are far more likely to survive. If you have not been vaccinated and you catch COVID-19 now, you are far more likely to be hospitalized and you could die. Almost all the people now being hospitalized for COVID-19 did not get vaccinated.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the COVID-19 vaccine for people ages 16 and up. For young people ages 12 to 16, and for people with certain immune system issues, the vaccine is available under emergency use authorization.

Some people with weak immune systems cannot get vaccinated. They are counting on others who can to do so to help protect them from COVID-19.

If you are not sure whether you should get vaccinated, ask your personal care provider. If you don’t have a doctor, contact the Clayton County Health District for answers to your individual concerns.

GDPH says, “COVID vaccination is available statewide and is our best tool for ending this pandemic and reducing the overwhelming strain on EMS, the healthcare system and healthcare providers. To find a COVID vaccination location, log on to https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine. Georgians aged 12 and older are urged to get vaccinated and wear a mask in public settings where social distancing is not possible and wash their hands frequently.”

  • You can get vaccinated at these locations in Clayton County. Call ahead in case you need an appointment.
  • On Saturday, August 28, CCPS and CCPD are holding a mass vaccination drive from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at North Clayton Middle School, College Park. You can help CCPS and CCHD plan ahead by registering in advance at https://gta-vras.powerappsportqals.us/en-US/.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp has asked all state employees to get vaccinated by Friday, September 3.
  • Clayton County Public Schools will close September 3 in an effort to encourage all students and staff to get vaccinated and will hold a mass vaccination drive from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Lovejoy Middle School, 1588 Lovejoy Road, Lovejoy. Register online at https://forms.gle/DTsWQ1mT7HKmcBS59. Although registration is preferred, CCPS says walk-ins are welcome.
  • Also on Friday, September 3, the Clayton County Health District will offer vaccinations. To schedule an appointment, register online at https://gta-vras.powerappsportals.us/en-US/ and fill out the COVID-19 questionnaire. Then, search for “Clayton County – Battle Creek Dose 1 Pfizer on September 3rd” to book your appointment. If you need help, call (678) 479-2223.
  • On Friday, September 24, CCPS will offer the second Pfizer dose.

Get tested

GDPH says you should not try to walk into hospital emergency rooms looking for COVID-19 testing. Instead, use one of the many free testing sites that are set up around the county.

Testing for COVID-19 is free of charge at county-sponsored locations. Private locations like drugstores may charge or require an appointment, so call ahead for details. In Clayton County, you can get tested for COVID-19 at several locations. Click the name of each location for a map:

Rock Springs Baptist Church (Mako Medical English | Español ): Free testing Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. You do not need an appointment but you must register. Input your insurance company or, if you don’t have one, your Social Security number. Register here. If you can’t register online or if you want to help someone who doesn’t have computer access, call (844) 625-6522, then choose option 3.

You can pre-register at locations around Georgia at https://covid19.dph.ga.gov/.


As of August 26, according to GDPH, Clayton County has had 2,173 people test positive for COVID-19 in the past two weeks. At least 29,127 people in Clayton County have come down with COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

Nearly a quarter of a million Georgias ages 18 to 29 have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

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