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New Year’s Eve Events Canceled as Athens COVID Cases Near All-Time High

Credit: University of Georgia

Before you decide to go out and celebrate New Year’s Eve in a crowded bar, be aware that some venues are canceling events as the highly contagious Omicron variant rips through the U.S. and COVID-19 cases spike rapidly in Athens.

The seven-day moving average of new daily cases, which stood at 14 just two weeks ago, hit 147 today and is likely to keep rising. The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 249 confirmed cases on Dec. 30 and 237 on Dec. 31. Those are the second- and third-highest number of cases in a single day during the entire pandemic. On Jan. 1, Athens’ seven-day rolling average is likely to top the previous peak of 156 in September 2020.

Another troubling sign is that the rate of positive tests is 38%, which indicates that cases are probably being undercounted due to a lack of testing.

If last year’s holidays are any indication, cases will keep going up for the next couple of weeks as UGA students come back to town. The seven-day average more than doubled between Dec. 31, 2020 and the peak of the second surge in mid-January. The Delta surge last fall took two months to start declining, although some experts think Omicron will burn out faster than that because it’s so contagious.

So far, local hospitals are holding up OK, with 89% of intensive care beds and 85% of all beds in use. People with COVID-19 currently make up about 17% of patients. But hospitalizations tend to lag behind spikes in cases, and even though Omicron symptoms are believed to be generally milder than previous variants, especially for vaccinated and boosted individuals, the virus could still overwhelm hospitals because it’s infecting more people.

DPH released a list of pharmacies where two newly approved COVID therapies, paxlovid and molnupiravir, are available. The only location in the Athens area is a Walgreens on Barnett Shoals Road. The treatments are meant to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization for people at risk of severe symptoms and require a prescription.

Despite spiking cases, the Clarke County School District announced today that classes will resume Jan. 6 as scheduled.

On the New Year’s Eve front, the 40 Watt has canceled its scheduled Kishi Bashi show and issued refunds. Flicker has canceled tonight’s concert headlined by The Pink Stones, and Buvez’s dance party featuring Josey is canceled as well. Check the Flagpole Calendar for the latest.