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COVID Cases in Athens Fall Slightly but Remain High

Credit: University of Georgia

New COVID-19 cases for Clarke County remained high again last week but showed a slight decrease, with the seven-day running average decreasing from 219 on Jan. 21 to 154 on Jan. 28. There were 1,101 confirmed new cases and 95 new positive antigen cases reported for the week. As of Jan. the positive test rate for Clarke County remained high at 28.4 percent. 

While new cases are decreasing for the county as a whole, new cases among school-aged children held steady for the week, with 384 new cases for children ages 5-17 and 147 new cases for children ages 0-4, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health School-Aged Surveillance report for Jan. 28.

According to Erin Lipp’s wastewater lab report at UGA, virus levels in Clarke County wastewater have remained steady when averaged for the week across all three wastewater plants, but “levels are still very high, indicating continued transmission.” There was some variability at plants this week, with one plant showing significant decline in viral levels compared to the previous week. The report noted that we should “know by next week if this is the start of a declining trend.”

In a sign that new cases are in decline, DPH and the Athens-Clarke County government’s COVID-19 drive-through testing site has resumed operations at the old fire station off Mitchell Bridge Road at Atlanta Highway. located at 3500 Atlanta Highway, with the entrance on Mitchell Bridge. The testing site had temporarily relocated to Holland Park to accommodate heavy traffic. Demand for testing spiked from an average of 50 tests a day to over 600 tests a day in early January but has since stabilized at approximately 250 tests a day. 

Testing at the Mitchell Bridge location will continue to be available Monday from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tuesday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. There is no out-of-pocket cost for COVID-19 testing at this site. Insurance information is requested if available, but insurance is not required and there is no cost to the person being tested, regardless of insurance status. Pre-registration is highly encouraged prior to arriving at the testing site to reduce wait times. Anyone wanting to be tested can pre-register by visiting:

In addition, the Clarke County School District is offering free COVID-19 tests from 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 4 at the H.T. Edwards Building, 440 Dearing Extension. For more information, visit

Although data for new cases last week showed that Clarke County is likely over the peak of this wave, three Clarke County residents died of COVID-19 last week. The pandemic also continues to take a toll on local hospitals. As of Jan. 28, intensive care bed space for Region E, which includes both Athens hospitals, was maxed out again, with 74 ICU beds in use. The region normally has a 70-bed ICU capacity.

The 230 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals accounted for 34% of all patients. Thirty-nine Clarke County residents were hospitalized for COVID-19 last week, bringing the total to 1,044.  

Vaccination rates for the area have slowed to a crawl. Just 177 first doses and 225 second doses were administered to Clarke County residents last week. To date, 52% of Clarke County residents have received at least one dose, 48% have been fully vaccinated, and 46% of the fully vaccinated have received a booster shot.

Vaccinations for Clarke County children have not improved much in recent weeks, either. Last week, just 27 children ages 5-9 and 20 children ages 10-14 have received a dose of the vaccine. Only 25% of children ages 5-9, 44% ages 10-14 and 25% in the 15-19 age group have received at least one dose. 

Cases remain high at UGA. For the week of Jan. 17-21, the university reported 919 cases, down slightly from 992 positive cases the previous week. UGA administered just 136 vaccine doses for the week.