It’s been just over two weeks after the Fourth of July holiday and Georgia, Floyd County and some surrounding states have all reported jumps in new COVID-19 infections.
Georgia’s seven-day average has more than doubled in the last month, according to Department of Public Health records and over 2,000 new cases were reported statewide on Monday as well as another 1,055 on Tuesday.
A corresponding rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Georgia is mainly in ages 29 to 40, and almost all of those patients are unvaccinated, Dr. Carlos del Rio said at a media briefing sponsored by Emory University in Atlanta.
“The rise in cases is strongly correlated with low vaccination rates,” Dr. del Rio said. “If you are not vaccinated, you are really in trouble,” del Rio said.
Much of the new rise has been attributed to the more virulent delta variant of COVID-19, politically fueled low vaccination rates in many parts of the country and false information primarily distributed on social media channels.
DPH Northwest Georgia Health Director Dr. Gary Voccio said the rise in new cases, unfortunately, is no surprise after the July 4 holiday.
A month ago the delta variant accounted for 0.06% of new cases. Two weeks ago that increased to just over 20% and, recently, commercial labs are reporting the variant is accounting for 42% of new cases.
Overall that new case rate is up 126% in Georgia over the past 14 days and 73% over the past seven days.
At this point, there have been 40 outbreaks in long term care facilities, jails and churches across the state, Voccio said.
Floyd County numbers
The current local uptick began on July 13 and became more pronounced since July 16. The seven day average is now 20 new reported infections per day. Since mid-June, Floyd County was averaging one, or fewer, new infections per day.
The number of COVID-19 infected patients hospitalized in Floyd County has also began creeping up.
For comparison, on June 21 there was a total of three COVID-19 positive patients being treated at Floyd Medical Center and Redmond Regional Medical Center, according to Floyd County Emergency Management Agency records.
By Tuesday, that number has increased to 20.
Deaths have yet to catch up, though during past surges an upward trend was not seen until weeks after cases began to rise. The last COVID-19 death reported in Floyd County was on June 16; prior to that, 10 Floyd County residents died from a COVID-19 infection in May.
To date, 194 Floyd County residents have died from a COVID-19 infection and another 45 Floyd County residents are listed as probable deaths from the disease. The term “probable deaths” is used for those who had a positive COVID-19 test from the less accurate antigen tests or other factors leading to death that may have resulted from a COVID-19 infection.
In Northwest Georgia, the spread of the highly contagious variant alongside the fact that around 20% of the region’s most vulnerable population — those 65 and over — are still unvaccinated, is cause for some concern, Georgia Department of Public Health Spokesperson Logan Boss said.
The real issue is younger people spreading the virus to that more vulnerable population, he added. The delta variant itself, while not more deadly overall, spreads faster and more easily than the original virus.
The concern about the potential for the spread to increase is primarily the transmission from less vulnerable people — in this case, younger populations where transmission of the virus has been the highest — to those older and more vulnerable, Boss said.
Neighboring states see increases
In the past week, Georgia has seen a 60% increase in cases but it’s not alone. Florida, where many in the U.S. go to spend their vacation time, reported a 109% increase in infections as well as increases in hospitalizations in larger population areas, according to the Miami Herald.
Al.com reported that data from the Alabama Department of Public Health indicated a sharp increase in coronavirus inpatients in that state’s hospitals. The increase was 469 patients on July 19 — a 130% increase since July 1, when 204 people were being treated for the virus in Alabama hospitals.
Public health officials have said for weeks that states like Georgia and many in the South are susceptible to an outbreak from the delta variant because of their low vaccination rates.
A South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control called the increase of the variant — which only made up 5% of South Carolina’s COVID-19 cases in June — as “incredibly concerning.”
“Given that the delta variant has proven to be more transmissible than prior strains, the spread of it could increase faster and/or to a larger degree,” SCDHEC spokesman Derrek Asberry told the media outlet.
Click here for information about the Floyd County Health Department and how to get a COVID-19 vaccination shot.