The number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at East Georgia Regional Medical Center on Wednesday hit 20 for the first time in five months and the state of Georgia also hit a five-month high for the most number of newly confirmed cases in a single day.
Prior to Wednesday, the last time Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn reported the hospital had 20 patients was Feb. 15 when 21 people were hospitalized. Wynn also said four patients were on ventilators Wednesday.
Across Georgia, new COVID-19 infections are spiking, according to a report by the Associated Press. The Georgia Department of Public Health recorded more than 3,700 positive tests on Tuesday. That's more than double the day before and the highest number since late February. The share of positive tests rose to 13%, far above the 5% level that experts say indicate most cases are being detected.
Similar to Bulloch County, the number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals is rising as confirmed virus patients statewide crossed 1,500 Tuesday for the first time since early March. In the Savannah and Brunswick area, the Department of Public Health reported hospitalizations are more than 10 times as high as a month ago.
In response to the rapid rise in cases, some school districts across the state announced in the past few days that they will require students and employees to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Among the districts implementing the mask mandates are the state’s largest system in Gwinnett County, Savannah-Chatham County, Clarke County, DeKalb County, Clayton County, Atlanta, Rockdale County and Decatur.
However, most Georgia districts say masks will be optional as children return to class over the next two weeks. That includes Cobb County, the state’s second-largest school district. Masks were always optional last year in many districts.
In Bulloch County, the Board of Education established a policy for the 2021 school year that masks would be encouraged, but not required, in schools or on buses.
Also, the COVID-19 vaccine would not be a required immunization for school attendance and no Bulloch County Schools employee or representative is authorized to ask students if they are vaccinated.
Despite Georgia remaining among the bottom eight states for vaccination rate according to the CDC, Gov. Brian Kemp said he opposes mask and vaccine mandates. He said he wants people to get vaccinated and encourages them to talk to their personal physician.
“I think people are educated enough on how to deal with COVID. We don’t need mandates," Kemp said. “We need to continue to share the data and the facts with them.”
Through Wednesday, 40% of Georgians have been fully vaccinated, while in Bulloch County 26% have been fully vaccinated.
Nationally, the average daily number of confirmed COVID cases has risen from 13,600 three weeks ago to more than 61,000 as of Wednesday.
The overwhelming number of people infected have not been vaccinated and President Biden is expected to announce Thursday that all federal civilian employees would be required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face repeated testing mandates. According to the Office of Personnel Management, there are an estimated 2.1 million federal civilian workers.
Reports indicate that government employees who aren’t vaccinated would not be fired, but will face a number of restrictions on them to encourage them to receive one of the vaccines.
Bulloch County recorded 22 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past two days, continuing a significant upward trend of cases that began about two weeks ago. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, 5,379 Bulloch residents have been diagnosed with COVID.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.