Family says watching loved one sick with COVID-19 Delta variant convinced them to get vaccinated

LAGRANGE, Ga. — A sharp rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Georgia is causing doctors to express a growing amount of concern, particularly for those who are unvaccinated.

Across Georgia, 884 people are hospitalized with COVID-19, according to the latest state data as of Monday night. The 7-day rolling average of cases is up 136% since July 4, according to that same data.

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Vicki May Norred is one of those hospitalized with the virus in Georgia. The 38-year-old LaGrange mother appears to have no underlying conditions, according to her family, and is not vaccinated.

“She left work because she couldn’t breathe,” said Norred’s daughter Kaylee May. “And she went to the hospital. Once they admitted her into the hospital, it was really scary.”

According to Norred’s sister, doctors told her a week later that she has also tested positive for the more infectious Delta variant. She’s battling COVID-19 and pneumonia but hopes to be released to begin physical therapy soon, her family says.

The Georgia Department of Public Health estimates approximately 90 cases of the Delta variant have been formally reported, although that number is likely an undercount due to a drop in testing.

“I felt like COVID-19 was starting to die down,” Amanda Smith, Norred’s sister, told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson. “With her testing positive for this Delta COVID that’s just kind of kicked in, I think it just kind of shocked all of us.”

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Doctors with Emory University School of Medicine say the sharp increases are because of the Delta variant being up to three times more infectious.

“So now one infected person infects eight or nine people, which then infect eight or nine people,” said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, with Emory University School of Medicine. “So that means the spread is much faster, the exponential growth is much faster.”

A little more than four million Georgians are fully vaccinated, making up just 39% of the state. Experts fear the virus will continue to mutate and mostly affect areas with low vaccination rates.

“I suspect over the summer, we’re going to see a surge and then it’s going to come down,” said Dr. Del Rio. “But there will be other variants coming and there’ll be other changes coming.”

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Norred’s family says she is recovering and will get vaccinated as soon as she leaves the hospital. They also say the experience has convinced them to get vaccinated as well.

“I can tell you that I was probably against the vaccination,” said Smith. “And then watching someone you love go through it, it changes your opinion with it.”

Norred’s family is raising money for her medical bills and costs associated with her recovery.