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COVID Infection and Vaccination Rates Decline in Athens

Credit: University of Georgia

Clarke County’s positive case count for COVID-19 remained low again last week, but Clarke County also saw vaccination rates slow again. During this next phase of the vaccination process, public health officials are doing more targeted outreach through pop-up vaccination events and other efforts in our community. 

Still need a vaccine and haven’t had a spare moment to make it happen? The Northeast Health District is hosting a pop-mobile vaccination clinic in downtown Athens on Wednesday, May 12 from 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The clinic will be held on College Avenue, near City Hall, with free walk-up Johnson & Johnson vaccinations and HIV testing.

“Our goal is to make it quick and easy for anyone visiting or working downtown to stop by and get a free shot or test,” said District Nursing Director Whitney Howell. “It only takes a few minutes to protect yourself.” 

Georgia had administered nearly 6.6 million shots as of May 9, with 36% of state residents receiving at least one dose and 28% fully vaccinated. About 1,000 Clarke County residents received their first dose last week, and another 2,600 are fully vaccinated. That brings the totals to 42,032, or 33%, who’ve received at least one dose, and 35,590, or 28%, who are fully vaccinated. 

COVID-19 cases remain relatively low in Clarke County, with 102 cases confirmed in the past two weeks as of May 9, or 79 per 100,000 people. That’s well below the state and national averages.

The seven-day rolling average of new cases per day in Clarke County stood at 6.1, down from 8.4 a week earlier. Cumulatively, Clarke County has had 12,804 confirmed cases, another 2,230 probable cases from positive antigen tests, 495 hospitalizations, 137 confirmed deaths and seven probable deaths from COVID-19. Just four new hospitalizations and no new deaths were added to Clarke County’s totals last week, according to Georgia Department of Public Health data.

At UGA, 18 positive cases were reported for the week of April 26-30. Only six of those cases were found via surveillance testing, which dropped even further to only 393 surveillance tests administered for the week as the semester comes to a close and students leave campus.UGA also administered 1,738 vaccination doses for the week. To date, UGA has administered 19,682 vaccines, with 12,503 individuals receiving the vaccine and 9,910 fully vaccinated.

While UGA’s semester is coming to a close, Clarke County School District is still in session for another couple of weeks. A recent outbreak at Chase Elementary, with eight confirmed cases and 114 students and staff in quarantine, forced the school to go virtual this week. For the week of Apr. 30—the most recent data reported—the Clarke County School District had 11 confirmed cases and 137 precautionary quarantines. 

One parent of two children at the school who tested positive last week said she was disappointed in the letter the school district sent out for a variety of reasons and hopes that they take a different approach on come fall. 

“I […] think, when you get to the point of closing a school, you need to start encouraging people to get tested to catch those asymptomatic cases,” said Laura Thompson. “In the form letter they send out, instead of just telling people what symptoms to look out for and assuring them that if their child is at risk they would have been contacted, also encourage people to get kids tested. List where they can go for free tests and the hours they are available. Make it as easy as possible.

“And furthermore, there shouldn’t be a stigma associated with being positive,” she added. 

The outbreak may be a sign of what’s in store for the fall, as children largely unvaccinated until the FDA approves the vaccine for children in the months ahead. According to one recent survey from the American Association for Pediatrics, one year ago COVID-19 cases for children made up just 3% of the U.S. total. Now children make up 22% of new cases nationally.