Since Friday, Georgia recorded more than 2,200 new COVID-19 cases, the largest three-day increase since April, at the same time new coronavirus cases are seeing a significant rise across the nation and locally.
Bulloch County reported 28 new COVID cases in the past week, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. It is the highest number of cases in a seven-day period since 46 local cases were recorded Feb. 26–March 3 — more than four months ago.
Cases of COVID-19 in the United States have tripled over the past three weeks, and hospitalizations and deaths are rising among unvaccinated people. While the rates are still sharply down from their January highs, officials are concerned by the reversing trendlines and what they consider needless illness and death. And cases are expected to continue to rise in coming weeks.
According to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, the U.S recorded 52,000 new cases this past Friday and the seven-day average of cases has moved past 31,000 per day. A month earlier, on June 17, the seven-day average was 11,000 new cases per day.
While the national emergency may have faded, officials say the outbreak is now a more localized crisis in communities where not enough people have been vaccinated.
“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” President Biden said Friday, echoing comments made earlier in the day by Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The rising numbers are being driven by large pockets of infection among the more than 90 million eligible Americans who have yet to get shots. Just four states with low vaccination rates made up 40% of new cases last week, and nearly half of them came from Florida alone.
More than 97% of people getting hospitalized with COVID-19 now are unvaccinated, Walensky said.
And 99.5% of deaths are among the unvaccinated, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Sunday.
Getting people vaccinated as quickly as possible "is our fastest, most effective way out of this pandemic," Murthy said.
In his weekly report released Monday, Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn said Bulloch now has a total of 5,283 COVID cases since the start of the pandemic after recording 28 new cases this week. It was the most weekly local cases reported since March 3.
Also, Wynn said East Georgia Regional Medical Center is treating seven COVID patients as of Monday, which is the most COVID patients at the hospital since May 9. Two of the current patients are on ventilators.
Last week, Wynn said: “We don’t live in a bubble and sooner or later, we will start seeing more cases. There’s a lot of things we still don’t know about COVID, but the vaccine gives all of us a proven advantage in staying safe. I just don’t understand why some folks have their heels dug in on this. It’s easy to get and it works.”
In Bulloch County, 26% of county residents have been fully vaccinated according to the Department of Health. Vaccinations are readily available at area pharmacies, doctors’ offices, the Bulloch County Health Department and East Georgia Regional Medical Center.
In the past week, Georgia has seen a 70% rise in COVID cases, a 38% rise in deaths, a 34% rise in COVID-related hospital admissions and a 28% rise in ICU admissions.
“I believe this is the beginning of the delta variant’s impacts in the state,” said Dr. Amber Schmidtke, a microbiologist who analyzes COVID in Georgia. “(Sunday) marked weeks since the 4th of July. So, this coming week is when we should begin to see cases and hospitalizations that resulted from that big social event. I would not be surprised if we see really big numbers starting this week.”
On Saturday, Georgia recorded 971 new cases — the most since 1,068 were reported on April 30, according to the Department of Health.
Surgeon General Murthy last week called for a national effort to fight misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, urging tech companies, health care workers, journalists and everyday Americans to do more to address an “urgent threat” to public health.
Murthy wrote that bogus claims have led people to reject vaccines and public health advice on masks and social distancing, undermining efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic and putting lives at risk.
The warning comes as the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed throughout the U.S., in part because of vaccine opposition fueled by unsubstantiated claims about the safety of immunizations and despite the U.S. death toll recently passing 600,000.
Murthy urged all Americans to verify questionable health information with trusted sources like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to exercise critical thinking when exposed to unverified claims. If people have loved ones or friends who believe or spread misinformation, he said, it's best to engage by listening and asking questions rather than by confronting them.
While some groups that push health misinformation do so for profit or other motives, many Americans may be spreading false information without realizing it, according to the advisory.
“Misinformation hasn’t just harmed our physical health — it has also divided our families, friends, and communities," Murthy wrote in the advisory. “The only way to address health misinformation is to recognize that all of us, in every sector of society, have a responsibility to act.”