On Monday, Georgia Southern University reported the most weekly COVID-19 cases since February, Bulloch County public schools said there were 67 cases recorded in the first week of the new school year, and Bulloch County added 78 new cases over the weekend.
COVID cases have seen a significant rise across the nation and state in the past five weeks, and Bulloch County is following the same trend. The Georgia Department of Public Health said in addition to Bulloch recording 192 new cases in the past week, two residents likely died as a result of COVID since last Tuesday.
Georgia confirmed 10,006 new cases over the weekend, and the state is now averaging 3,850 new cases a day. Across the nation, the average number of new cases is more than 110,000 per day and deaths have passed 500 per day, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine.
The first day of classes for Georgia Southern’s fall semester is Wednesday and the university reported 73 new COVID cases among students and staff on Monday, including 60 in Statesboro, for the week of Aug. 2-8. It was the most new cases since GS reported 80 cases for Feb. 1-7 — six months ago.
Of the 73 cases, 16 were confirmed by the university and 57 were self-reported.
The University System of Georgia does not require vaccines for students or employees and masks are only required to be worn in student health centers or while riding university buses. In a message sent out to the university community last week, Dr. Brian DeLoach, the medical director for Student Health Services, wrote: “We are now encouraging everyone to wear a mask or face covering while inside campus facilities.”
At Ogeechee Technical College, the fall semester isn’t set to begin until Aug. 23, but, for the week of July 26-Aug. 1, the Statesboro campus reported the second-highest number of new COVID infections for students seen in a week since the college began tracking cases in August 2020. Also, the most weekly infections ever recorded were reported for employees that week.
In an email Monday, Sean Payne, executive director for Public Relations & Marketing at OTC, wrote: “Our current guidance for campus is that unless you are fully vaccinated, face coverings are required when social distancing cannot be achieved. We will continue to evaluate and update COVID guidance for campus as we work with (the Technical College System of Georgia) and the Georgia Department of Public Health Southeast District to assess the situation.”
Bulloch County Schools
Though Bulloch County recorded 67 cases of COVID last week among students and staff after the first week of classes, Hayley Greene, director of Public Relations for the district, said a number of the 67 cases includes students and staff who had COVID and did not come to school at all last week.
“We are not sure how many fit in the category, but it is a reasonable number,” Greene said. “I think we’ll have a better sense of the actual number of cases where infections may be from contacts in school in the next few weeks.”
Greene said school policies surrounding COVID would be adjusted, if needed.
“As we did last year and as we do with any infectious illnesses, the school district will monitor what is happening in our schools to make any necessary updates to protocols or daily operations,” she said.
Ted Wynn, Bulloch’s Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency director, said 39 COVID patients were hospitalized on Monday at East Georgia Regional Medical Center. That’s the same number of patients as Friday, and the first time in two weeks no increase was reported. However, 10 patients are on ventilators, six more that were reported on ventilators Friday.
Across Georgia, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients increased by more than 800 last week and now surpasses 3,000, about 2,500 more than needed hospital care on July 1. The Associated Press reported that the rapid rise in cases has forced more than two dozen hospitals in the state to turn away patients.
The vast majority of people who have been hospitalized around the state are not vaccinated.
Vaccines are readily available at area pharmacies, doctors’ offices, East Georgia Regional Medical Center and the Bulloch County Health Department.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.