City DopeNews

COVID Cases Still Declining in Athens

Credit: University of Georgia

New COVID-19 cases in Clarke County decreased significantly last week, with the rate of new cases nearly cut in half. The seven-day running average dropped to 42 new cases per day on Feb. 9, down from a high of 257 on Jan. 11, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. 

Clarke County added 501 confirmed cases and an additional 42 positive antigen tests last week. The positive test rate decreased slightly to 26%, a sign that cases are still being undercounted. According to public health experts, the positivity rate should be at or below 5% if ample testing is occurring. 

New cases of COVID-19 among children in Clarke County decreased slightly last week, but the School Aged Survey from DPH still shows very high rates of transmission among children locally. New cases among children 0-4 years old are holding steady, with 134 new cases in the last two weeks. New cases for children 5-17 decreased slightly to 352 cases in the last two weeks.  

Data from Erin Lipp’s wastewater lab at UGA continued to show signs that the Omicron wave is receding rapidly for Athens. According to last week’s report, viral levels “remain high in wastewater” but “loads for the week showed a consistent decline.” The report noted that viral loads declined to the 50th percentile for samples collected to date when averaged for the week and across all plants, and reached levels not observed since last December.

While new cases are down significantly, the Omicron variant is still impacting the local health-care system. Hospitalizations and deaths lag behind new cases in pandemic data. Last week, three Clarke County residents died of COVID-19, and 25 residents were hospitalized with the virus. To date, at least 191 Clarke County residents have died from COVID-19, and 1,069 residents have been hospitalized.

According to the Georgia hospital medical census dashboard, COVID hospitalization rates for Region E, which serves Clarke and the surrounding counties, were down from 230 patients, or 34% of all patients, on Jan. 28 to 173 patients, or 25% of all patients, on Feb. 9. For the third week in a row, ICU space is still at a premium. As of Feb. 9, 65 of 70 ICU beds were occupied.

Vaccination rates for Clarke County are nearly stagnant at this point in the pandemic, with just 125 residents receiving a first dose last week and an additional 188 residents receiving a second dose. To date, 65,616 Clarke County residents, or 52%, have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 60,858 residents, or 48% have been fully vaccinated. An additional 28,729 booster shots have been administered to Clarke County residents, with 47% of fully vaccinated residents receiving an additional dose.

Rates of child vaccinations continue to slow down for the county, with just 13 children ages 5-9 and 19 children ages 10-14 receiving at least one dose last week. To date, 1,495 children, or 26% percent of children ages 5-9, in Clarke County have received at least one dose of the vaccine. For children ages 10-14, 2,713, or 45% of that age group have received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

At UGA, reported cases decreased from 919 to 363 positive cases for the week of Jan. 24–30 and 158 for the week of Jan. 31. The number of surveillance tests administered decreased to 652 tests for the week from 1,254 tests the previous week. The University Health Center administered 152 vaccine doses.