Four Bulloch County residents died due to COVID-19 in the past two days, extending the deadliest local stretch of the virus since the pandemic began in March 2020.
On Aug. 10, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported 62 Bulloch residents had died from coronavirus. Since then, COVID has taken the lives of 14 residents — by far the most deaths in any three-plus week period since Bulloch's first death was recorded in April 2020.
"Please remember to be safe," said Bulloch County's Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn. "The delta variant is much more contagious. The best way to protect yourself is to get a vaccine. And everyone, even the vaccinated, should wear a mask when inside a store or any enclosed space with lots of people."
Bulloch County now has 77 confirmed total deaths and 62 probable deaths, for a total of 139, according to the Department of Health.
Across Georgia, the Department of Health's Friday report showed there have been 20,041 confirmed COVID deaths in the state since the pandemic began.
"It is tragic but not surprising that we have surpassed this grim milestone of 20,000 COVID deaths in our state," said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner. "Ninety seven percent of COVID deaths since we've had vaccine are in unvaccinated individuals. These deaths are preventable."
Like much of the nation, COVID cases are surging in Georgia, driven by the delta variant. The delta variant is more transmissible than the original virus and research shows that it results in a higher rate of severe illness and hospitalization than other variants, according to the Health Department. COVID-19 is spreading fastest in areas with low vaccination rates. Currently, only 44% of Georgians are fully vaccinated.
In Bulloch County, only 29% of residents are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in the state.
"COVID vaccine is available statewide and is our best tool for ending this pandemic and reducing the overwhelming strain on EMS, the healthcare system and healthcare providers," said Nancy Nydam, director of Communications for the DPH. "Vaccines are safe and effective at protecting against COVID-19 infections. COVID vaccines also help prevent severe illness and death if an individual does get sick."
Amber Schmidtke, a microbiologist who tracks COVID in Georgia, said: "This is the worst of the pandemic so far, which is tragic considering we have safe and effective vaccines that could prevent this."
Wynn said East Georgia Regional Medical Center was treating 67 patients hospitalized with COVID on Friday — up from 63 on Wednesday.
Wynn said 20 patients are on ventilators, which is up two from Wednesday.
There were 6,452 COVID-19 patients hospitalized across Georgia on Thursday, nearly one-third of all people in hospitals. The state has set a record for most COVID patients hospitalized for three days in a row.
New cases around the U.S. are now averaging about 164,000 per day, according to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, along with an average of 1,521 deaths per day due to COVID.