ATLANTA (CBS46) -- Georgia hospitals are seeing more and more COVID-19 patients fill their beds.

As of Wednesday, there were nearly 4,000 COVID patients in the state's hospitals. That's 23.5% of all inpatients, according to the Georgia Hospital Association. 

The numbers are steadily increasing, but not yet to the level reached during the highest point of the pandemic in September when 35.7% of inpatients were being treated for COVID. 

"We’re in the middle of our fifth surge of COVID and it seems like with each surge it gets a little bit more aggressive faster than the previous surge," said Anna Adams with the Georgia Hospital Association. 

"We still have a significant staffing shortage in the state and that is really contributing to our capacity issues especially in the emergency department," said Adams. "Staffing levels definitely have an impact on whether a hospital has to go on diversion in the emergency department.”

Many metro Atlanta hospitals are on diversion, meaning ambulances are asked to take patients to another facility because of how crowded and stretched thin hospitals are.

Dennis Westover with Metro Atlanta Ambulance Service said, "Diversions have always taken place periodically; it's just unusual that it’s as lengthy a time as we’re faced with right now."

He said they keep up with the challenge by maintaining communication with the places to which they transport patients. 

"We actually dedicate someone in the communications center, that’s their primary function, they keep open lines of communication with the hospital so they know realistic time," he explained. "The trick is keeping up with the hospital status, having someone that’s dedicated that can adjust and recommend to the crews other options for hospitals.”

With so many hospitals in metro Atlanta, Westover said it's not a problem to find another location that can take a patient. He assured the public if they call 911, a crew will be there for them.

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