Expect increases in COVID-19 cases as the colder weather approaches, Northwest Georgia Public Health director Dr. Gary Voccio warned Rome City Commissioners Monday.

Floyd County is already experiencing an increase and sits at roughly 130 cases over a two week period. Voccio said the county’s positivity rate shifted from 5% to 6%, slightly lower than the surrounding counties.

Approximately 41% of the county’s total population is now fully vaccinated, which is higher than any other Northwest Georgia county. However, the numbers are nowhere near the level Voccio and other health experts are hoping for.

“We’re not even close to herd immunity levels,” he said. “We’re going to be in this COVID-19 pandemic for a while. Experts believe we’ll be dealing with this for the foreseeable future.”

With winter weather nearing, people are more likely to be inside, which increases the likelihood of a spike in positive cases. Voccio said he expects a noticeable uptick in cases after the holidays have concluded.

To keep yourself and your loved ones safe during the upcoming holidays, the Georgia Department of Public Health urges everyone to take steps to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19 and the flu.

Here are several recommendations the agency is passing along from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

♦ The best protection against COVID and the flu is vaccination, and the vaccines can be administered at the same time. It takes about two weeks after getting vaccinated for antibody protection to develop.

♦ For young children who aren’t yet eligible for the COVID vaccine, reduce the risk of exposure by making sure the people around them are vaccinated.

♦ Wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth in public indoor settings if you are not fully vaccinated, or if you are vaccinated but in a community with substantial to high transmission.

♦ Outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities.

♦ Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces.

♦ Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

♦ If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu, don’t host or attend a gathering.

♦ Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Just 51% of Georgians are fully vaccinated for COVID-19, so assume every crowd is a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and the risk of COVID transmission exists — especially the Delta variant which is more contagious and can cause more severe illness.

DPH is closely monitoring COVID case increases in Europe and parts of the United States. Additionally, surveillance in Georgia indicates flu activity is increasing in some areas.

To find a COVID or flu vaccine location in your area, visit VaccineFinder.gov.

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