Georgia has been facing a shortage of nurses for years, but it’s a problem that has only grabbed headlines because of the COVID-19 pandemic that brought harrowing tales of overworked healthcare workers struggling to keep up with record amounts of death.

The state's low vaccination rate, still below 50% of the eligible population, only adds to the struggles of medical staff bearing the brunt of a summer spike in cases that pushed Georgia’s death toll past 26,000 and is only now abating. By the end of August, the situation was so dire that Gov. Brian Kemp deployed 105 personnel to assist nurse staff at 10 hospitals across the state and urged residents to get vaccinated. 

“We’re just tired and burned out. And we need the public’s help: get vaccinated,” said Richard Lamphier, president of the Georgia Nurses Association. 

A lack of nurses means patients end up waiting longer for care and exhausted nurses are prone to mistakes, Lamphier said, both of which mean worse outcomes for those hospitalized. Georgia has the fifth-worst nurse-to-population ratio among the 50 states and the state’s per-capita COVID-19 mortality rate is currently seventh-worst in the U.S.. 

As the state recovers from the latest coronavirus surge, Kemp has already told Georgians to expect another this winter. 

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