Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health last week showed a large increase in the number of Athens residents who have received COVID-19 shots.
According to the DPH vaccine dashboard, 32,991 Clarke County residents, or 26%, have now been fully vaccinated, and 41,080 residents, or 33%, have now received at least one dose of a vaccine. For the week of Apr. 23-30, 7,831 residents were added to the fully vaccinated data and another 11,568 residents were added to the “at least one shot” category.
Compared to the previous week, where only 3,489 doses were administered to Athens residents, this was a huge jump. However, much of the increase is a result of DPH’s efforts to track down county data on vaccinations that were previously only included in the state data because no county of residence was given initially.
“The data team was able to go back earlier this week… and assign vaccines that were initially in the “unknown county” category and actually assign them to the rightful counties,” said Georgia DPH Director of Communications Nancy Nydam. “The vaccines had previously been counted in the overall state total, but not in Clarke specifically.”
That bodes well for Clarke County in the coming weeks, especially as UGA commencement approaches, bringing an influx of relatives and friends from out of town. The university recently announced that—although commencement will remain spread out over three days, May 13, 14 and 15—there will now be no limit to the number of guests graduates can invite. With Gov. Brian Kemp’s announcement last Friday that he is lifting most of the state’s remaining virus restrictions, bars and restaurants will be packed to full capacity, and having about half of the eligible Athens population with some protection against the virus will hopefully keep any potential surges at bay.
The data for case rates, hospitalizations and deaths for Clarke County continues to hold steady. Only 59 new cases were confirmed last week, with an additional nine positive antigen tests, bringing the cumulative total to 12,744 confirmed and 2,213 likely cases. The seven-day moving average of daily new cases stood at 8.3.
Just two Clarke County residents were hospitalized for COVID-19 last week, bringing the total to 491. The percentage of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in the region fell to 5.7%, or 33. One death was attributed to COVID-19 for a total of 137 throughout the nearly 15-month pandemic.
At UGA, surveillance tests declined again, with 576 administered. The university reported 15 cases for the week of Apr.19-25. Additionally, UGA administered 3,421 vaccines that week. To date, UGA has administered 17,951 vaccines to a total of 11,812 individuals. UGA reports it has fully vaccinated 8,481 people so far. However it’s still unclear just how UGA’s data is included in state vaccination data.
Despite the relatively low numbers, wastewater data from Erin Lipp’s lab at the UGA Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases suggests the virus is still spreading in Clarke County, but fewer tests are being done. Wastewater still contains “significant” levels of the virus, which “may be related to lower rates of testing across the area and potentially more asymptomatic infections, although without surveillance testing to confirm, this is only an assumption.”
Public health experts are quick to point out that, although the U.S. is rounding the corner, vigilance is still required. Mask-wearing indoors, in large crowds and indoor spaces is still encouraged, as is social distancing and hand washing.
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