By REBECCA HAZEN
Logan Boss, Public Information Officer for Georgia Department of Health’s Northwest Health District, says that the northwest Georgia has entered a “worrisome period,” as there is a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the area.
“Our hospitals in our 10 northwest Georgia counties are significantly impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The ERs are slammed. The ICU units are filled. All of our hospitals are having to divert patients to other locations if possible, and it’s not always possible,” Boss said.
Boss said that this period of time is similar to early January of this year, when the surge of cases was putting troublesome pressure on area hospitals. Like back then, some of the area’s hospitals are stopping elective surgeries again.
According to Boss, most of the cases, and almost 100 percent of the hospitalizations in northwest Georgia, are in unvaccinated people.
“It’s flipped from early this year. Most of the cases were in older people. Now we are seeing cases in younger people, mostly 40 and younger, and that’s troublesome. We are seeing a large increase in recent cases among children. In the last week we have seen a 16 percent increase in cases in children ages five to 17, and an 82 percent increase in children ages zero to four years old. That is disturbing,” Boss said.
The Department of Health is planning on opening a COVID-19 testing site in Catoosa County soon, to help with the recent surge in cases.
The Delta variant is more transmissible than the original COVID-19 virus, and it is what is causing the number of cases in the area to go up.
“So far evidence doesn’t show that it is any more deadly, but vastly more transmissible. It is easier to pass along, and that’s what we’re seeing,” Boss said.
Boss encourages everyone to get vaccinated, and notes that it’s the only way to slow down the surge of cases, and then end the pandemic.
“While we respect everyone’s individual right to make personal decisions about their health care, we are in a situation now where those personal decision are having a serious impact on other people. We would strongly encourage people to consider that fact and get vaccinated,” Boss said.
The three vaccines that are available, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, have proved to be highly effective against the virus, and they are almost 100 percent effective in reducing the severity of the virus.
“When the breakthrough cases do occur, they are very mild,” Boss said. “The vaccines are almost 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalization and death.”
Vaccines are readily available and will remain plentiful. The Georgia Department of Health does not expect any more vaccine supply issues, like what was experienced in the early days of the vaccine roll out.
“We are seeing an uptick in vaccinations across northwest Georgia, but in none of the counties are we seeing immunization levels that are going to help us slow the virus. We have a long ways to go,” Boss said. “Really, the vaccine is the only way that we’re going to be able to slow down the current surge, and eventually deal with the pandemic.”
Boss continued, “People need to follow the CDC guidance, and I know this is a sore subject for many people, but vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in public, if they are in an area of high transmission. All ten of our northwest Georgia counties, including Dade, are deemed high transmission counties.”
According to Boss, the best information about local cases and immunization rates can be found on the Georgia Department of Health website. The number of cases can be found at dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report. The number of immunizations can be found at dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine by clicking on “Interactive Dashboard.”