Lovejoy Baptist Church hosts vaccine clinic

Floyd Medical Center personnel vaccinated 103 eligible community members at a March 7, 2021, clinic hosted at Lovejoy Baptist Church in South Rome.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported that 5 more Floyd County residents died from COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the toll in the first eight days of September to 14.

That brings the total number of deaths in Floyd County to 218 since the pandemic began in March 2020, with another 45 officially listed as probably related.

Deaths often follow surges in virus transmission in a morbid cycle. Spikes in new infections, as seen in Floyd County in mid-July, lead to increased hospitalizations and then, a few weeks later, deaths.

That cycle is moving across Northwest Georgia, with 5 more deaths in Bartow County and 2 in Polk County also reported on Wednesday.

Last week the CEOs of every major hospital that serves the region joined voices to urge residents to get vaccinated.

Approximately 36% of Floyd County residents are fully vaccinated, compared to around 44% of Georgians. Nationally, the average is 53.4%.

Hospitals are choked with COVID-19 patients in Floyd County as well as regionally. The Floyd County Emergency Management Agency reported that Floyd Medical Center was treating 122 COVID-19 patients and Redmond Regional Medical Center had 85, as of Wednesday.

The number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations reported this week has surpassed any other wave since the first case was reported in Floyd County in March 2020.

While some statistical models based on the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant have predicted that the U.S. may be at its crest for infections, Northwest District Department of Public Health Director Dr. Gary Voccio said earlier this week that it doesn’t seem likely here.

“I suspect we’ll see even higher numbers over the course of the next week or two because of the holiday we recently had,” he said. “Georgia’s also a football state and with college and high school football, it’s going to lend itself to even worse numbers.”

That spread at schools and athletic events has led to a higher number of young people getting the virus and requiring hospitalization.

“The numbers are now almost equal between younger people getting sick and the elderly population,” Voccio said. “And unfortunately, we’ve had some recent deaths of younger people and that’s why it’s so pertinent to get vaccinated.”

Last week a 13-year-old Coosa High School student and a 24-year-old assistant basketball coach at Shorter University both died from COVID-19.

The response from schools locally has been piecemeal. Both school systems chose to take a school by school approach for precautions at the beginning of the school year.

Rome City Schools began the year without COVID-19 precautions, such as masks or class separations, but has gone to both with increased numbers of student and staff infections. The latest report posted online showed infection numbers through Sept. 3 as of late Wednesday.

Floyd County Schools opened with no guidelines but later adopted standards for when each school would begin to take masking and class separation precautions. The school board adopted guidelines for precautions as well as when to go to virtual learning in mid-August.

The county school system reported 7 new COVID-19 infections Wednesday and only Armuchee High School and Pepperell High School are currently taking COVID-19 precautions.

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