A medical team adjusts tubes and cords after turning a COVID-19 patient onto their stomach to help with breathing, inside the intensive care unit at Central Washington Hospital on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021.

A medical team adjusts tubes and cords after turning a COVID-19 patient onto their stomach to help with breathing, inside the intensive care unit at Central Washington Hospital on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. The medical team isn't wearing protective gear because the patent isn't contagious anymore. (Amanda Snyder/The Seattle Times/TNS)

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in local medical centers dropped below 100 for the first time since August as the positivity and case rates continue to ease in Floyd County.

Floyd Medical Center reported 59 patients Tuesday afternoon and Redmond Regional Medical Center had 37 patients.

The county had a positivity rate of 15.3%, which is the percentage of people who test positive for COVID-19 during a given period of time. Public health officials use the rate to determine if there is a significant spread of the virus in an area. Below 5% is the goal.

According to Northwest Georgia Department of Public Health Director Dr. Gary Voccio, the region is averaging a positivity rate of about 15% to 20%.

Voccio said the recent surge could’ve been caused by students returning to school since many of the cases were pediatric, people under the age of 18. Now, cases are beginning to decline, he said, with some people having some form of immunity after contracting the virus.

That being said, it’s still important to get vaccinated since medical experts don’t know how long that “natural immunity” lasts or how well it protects against getting infected a second time, Voccio said.

Rome City Schools announced Tuesday it will keep its mask mandate in place when students come back from their fall break.

Recognizing the decrease in cases, Superintendent Lou Byars and other school leadership said they decided that the best way to prevent another spike is to continue the current measures through the end of October.

Floyd County is inching along with vaccination rates, with 45% of people having received at least one dose and 40% of residents being fully vaccinated.

While cases are dropping now, Voccio said he is unsure of when or how strong the next surge could be. Many experts are predicting another holiday surge, similar to what the state experienced back in December and January 2020.

People can get vaccines, boosters and third doses of the Pfizer vaccines at local public health departments. Find the closest one at dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine.

Vaccines linked to case reduction

A new report shows COVID-19 vaccinations may have helped prevent roughly 5,100 new COVID-19 infections and 700 deaths among seniors in Georgia during the first five months of this year, Capitol Beat News Service is reporting.

The study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, also found that vaccinations were linked to a reduction of about 265,000 COVID-19 infections nationally, 107,000 hospitalizations, and 39,000 deaths among Medicare beneficiaries between January and May 2021.

“This report reaffirms what we hear routinely from states: COVID-19 vaccines save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and reduce infection,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The study also found that vaccines were linked to a reduction of about 5,600 deaths among nursing home Medicare beneficiaries, a group that was disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

Tim Darnell of Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.

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