The rate of new COVID-19 cases has dropped along with the number of hospitalizations in Floyd County, and across the country, as it appears a holiday surge has begun to abate.

Looking at the high water mark of 600 to 700 new cases every two weeks in December and January, the current rate of 330 per two weeks looks almost benign.

That’s not the case, Northwest Health District spokesman Logan Boss said.

“People feel that vaccinations have shown us the light at the end of the tunnel,” Boss said. “That’s not the case; we’re still in the tunnel.”

The vaccine supply is still sporadic, but as of early this week, the Northwest Health District had administered over 50,000 doses of the vaccine.

In Floyd County alone, 18,328 first doses and 10,073 second doses of the vaccine had been administered as of Thursday.

Those did not necessarily all go to Floyd County residents because the number includes shots administered at hospitals and other local providers.

Other than availability, there is also an issue of equitable distribution of vaccines and that’s something public health is attempting to address.

“From what I’ve seen so, far we have a big problem with African American and Latino vaccinations,” Boss said.

Gov. Brian Kemp recently vowed to more equitably distribute vaccines in a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

At this point the vaccination report doesn’t break down vaccinations by race and ethnicity at the county level, but using anecdotal evidence, there’s an issue.

Whether it be an issue of trust or lack of information, public health officials are seeking to counteract those disparities and plans to launch a campaign targeted at Black and Hispanic communities within the next few weeks.

Unknowns about the vaccine still remain. It’s been deemed safe, but Boss said they’re not sure how long the effect of the vaccine lasts or whether it is as effective against the new variants of the disease.

“The answer is, we just don’t know,” Boss said.

Acknowledging that people are very tired of taking precautions, he said now is not the time to relax. The question is when the next wave will come — whether it be from the highly contagious United Kingdom variant or for another reason.

The good news, for now, is that new case rates and hospitalizations are down in the 10-county Northwest Georgia Health District. Dropping from highs of over 120 in December, there were 63 COVID-19 patients being treated at local hospitals on Thursday.

Up to this point, 155 Floyd County residents have died from a COVID-19 infection. Another 31 Floyd County residents are suspected to have died from the disease.

Of that number, 17 deaths have been reported in February.

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