As cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant increase throughout the nation, questions about booster shots, hospitalizations and vaccine hesitancy leave many frustrated. As part of The Red & Black’s health news coverage, we are publishing weekly reports on news relating to COVID-19 and its recent statistics.
Amid rising COVID-19 cases, Athens is the third major city in Georgia to reinstate a mask mandate, following Atlanta and Savannah. Masks are now required in all public buildings within Clarke County. Private buildings can opt out of the mandate but have to post a sign that masks are optional.
According to state health officials, new cases of COVID-19, as well as current hospitalizations, are on the rise in Georgia due to the highly contagious Delta variant, and some medical institutions are turning people away due to a shortage of room. From July 18-31, about 85.7% of COVID-19 cases in Region 4, which includes Georgia, were Delta variant cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As the gap between immunizations in affluent and poor countries increases, the World Health Organization is asking for a halt on COVID-19 vaccine booster shots until at least the end of September.
Data breakdown: University of Georgia
The University of Georgia intends to open up campus completely in-person with a focus on vaccinating people.
The lack of COVID-19 screening alongside the lack of a vaccine mandate is instilling frustration and worries among students and faculty as students return to Athens from different locations far and near.
UGA reported 38 COVID-19 cases over the week of July 26-Aug. 3, higher than the 13 cases a week before.
The university conducted 183 surveillance tests during the week of July 26-30, an increase from the 158 tests last week.
There is still a chance of an uptrend in COVID-19 cases as different mutations of the coronavirus are found in Georgia and as people ease public health guidelines, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
Students and faculty may book a vaccine appointment at the UGA University Health Center Vaccine Portal or get vaccinated at any University System of Georgia school. Students may also get tested for COVID-19 at the UHC with walk-in appointments.
Data breakdown: Athens-Clarke County
Last week, Clarke County saw an increase of new confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to the week before.
From July 31-Aug. 6, the county reported 282 new confirmed cases, compared to 215 from July 22-30, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The county’s seven-day average positivity rate was 12.5%.
This week, ACC reported zero confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
According to the Georgia Geospatial Information Office, the number of current hospitalizations in Region E — which includes ACC and several surrounding counties — increased last week. On Aug. 8, there were 95 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, compared to the 65 on July 30.
According to the Georgia DPH, about 40% of the county is fully vaccinated. This percentage is below what is needed to achieve herd immunity, when enough people are vaccinated to stop or severely slow transmission of the virus. Previous research has shown that herd immunity is achieved in communities where at least 70% of residents are vaccinated.
Data breakdown: Georgia
Statewide, the weekly rate of new confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased due to the Delta variant, which is more infectious than the previous strains of the coronavirus. The Delta variant is more contagious than chickenpox, according to an internal CDC document obtained by The New York Times.
The number of confirmed deaths in the state increased over the past two weeks — Georgia recorded 122 confirmed COVID-19 deaths between July 31-Aug. 6 compared to the 74 between July 22-30.
Georgia reported 32,729 confirmed COVID-19 cases between July 31-Aug. 6, an increase of about 5,000 from 26,797 between July 22-30. This increase is partly due to a backlog of cases, dating back to July 30, that were not previously reported to the DPH. The state’s seven-day average positivity rate increased to 15.3% on Aug. 6 compared to 11.9% on July 30.
According to the Geospatial Information Office, the number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state increased by over 1,000 from about 2,044 on July 30 to 3,327 on Aug. 8.
According to the DPH, about 4.2 million Georgians have been fully vaccinated. Approximately 4.9 million Georgians have received only the first dose. Only 41% of the state has been fully vaccinated. According to 2019 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia has a total population of about 10.6 million.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said double masking is likely more effective amid the more contagious COVID-19 mutations found in the U.S., according to a CNBC article. Double-masking has been shown to block over 92% of potentially infectious particles from spreading to others, according to a CDC study.
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated individuals should wear a mask indoors if in an area of substantial or high transmission. The CDC has also released guidelines for vaccinated individuals to still try their best to follow social distancing, wear masks and frequently wash hands even if they have been vaccinated.