Local data on COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to trend in the right direction. Alongside continued vaccination efforts, the imminent approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the passage of President Biden’s recovery package in the House of Representatives, all signs point to continued and more effective control of the pandemic in the coming weeks and months.
The seven-day running average for Clarke County decreased again last week to 18.7 as of Feb. 26, although it ticked up to 23.4 on Mar. 2. Clarke County has had a total of 14,141 positive tests, including antigen tests.
The data continues to show less stress on local hospitals. Twenty-one Clarke County residents were hospitalized for COVID-19 last week, bringing the total to 458, but the number of intensive care beds in use fell to 64, or 91% of capacity, in Region E. About 16% of overall patients are hospitalized with COVID-19.
COVID killed seven Clarke County residents last week, for a total of 113 confirmed and six probable deaths during the pandemic as of Mar. 2. Deaths are a lagging indicator and are beginning to slow.
Wastewater data from Erin Lipp’s lab at the UGA Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases at UGA showed that the viral load has remained stable last week. However, lab data shows that there’s been wide variability of viral levels in the wastewater samples, likely a result of varying viral levels in different areas of the county.
At UGA for the week of Feb. 15-21, there were just 68 positive cases, down from 105 the previous week. Surveillance testing numbers were down slightly from the previous week, with 1,890 tests performed for the week compared to 2,355 the week prior.
As of last week, 30,874 vaccines had been administered in Clarke County. Gov. Brian Kemp announced that pre-K and K-12 teachers and staff would be added to the Phase 1A+ category and would be eligible for vaccination starting Mar. 8 (University of Georgia faculty and staff under age 65 are not included).
The Clarke County School District then announced that it plans to offer employees the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Mar. 10 and the second dose on Mar. 31 at Clarke Central and Cedar Shoals high schools from 1-6 p.m. CCSD is beginning a phased return to in-person classes, starting with kindergarten through second grade this week. Third through fifth grade will return Mar. 15, followed by middle and high schools the next week. High-schoolers will attend in-person classes two days a week, and others will be in school four days a week, with virtual classes on Wednesday. Parents also have an all-virtual option.
Reports recently surfaced through a local court-watching program of a COVID-19 outbreak at the Clarke County Jail. Last week, according to jail commander Maj. Jessica Goings, there were 15 inmates who had tested positive and were being quarantined, out of a population of approximately 300. Consenting inmates are tested weekly, masks are provided daily and living quarters are kept sanitized, Goings said.
Local judges have been making an effort to release inmates on low or no bond whenever possible during the pandemic, especially if their age or a medical condition makes them susceptible to the virus, Superior Court Judge Lisa Lott said.
“I will say the jail has been doing an incredible job of quarantining people who’ve been exposed,” she said.
While the news is positive overall locally, the CDC announced Friday that cases appear to be plateauing, and the public should remain vigilant in public health measures to guard against another surge.
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