The Georgia Department of Public Health said four Bulloch County residents died over the weekend due to COVID-19, bringing the local death toll up 178 since the pandemic began in March 2020. Almost 30% of those deaths — 55 — have occurred in the past eight weeks as the delta variant has proven more deadly, and local vaccine rates have lagged behind state and national averages.
Deaths also have seen an increase across the nation in the past few months. In fact, the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 700,000 Friday. The last 100,000 deaths occurred during a time when vaccines — which overwhelmingly prevent deaths, hospitalizations and serious illness — were available to any American over the age of 12.
The milestone is frustrating to doctors, public health officials and much of the American public, who watched a pandemic that was easing earlier in the summer take a dark turn. Tens of millions of Americans have refused to get vaccinated, allowing the highly contagious delta variant to tear through the country and send the death toll from 600,000 to 700,000 in 3 ½ months.
Florida suffered by far the most deaths of any state during that period, with the virus killing about 17,000 residents since the middle of June. Texas was second with 13,000 deaths. The two states account for 15% of the country's population, but more than 30% of the deaths since the nation crossed the 600,000 threshold.
“If we had been more effective in our vaccination, then I think it’s fair to say, we could have prevented 90% of those deaths,” since mid-June, said Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who has analyzed publicly reported state data.
In Bulloch County, 37% of residents have received at least one shot and 33% are fully vaccinated. In Georgia, 54% of state residents have had at least one dose and 48% are fully vaccinated.
Almost 65% of Americans have had at least one dose of vaccine, while about 56% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But millions are either refusing or still on the fence because of fear, misinformation and political beliefs. Health care workers report being threatened by patients and community members who don't believe COVID-19 is real.
Amanda Alexander, a COVID-19 ICU nurse at Georgia’s Augusta University Medical Center, said last week that she'd had a patient die on each of her previous three shifts.
“I’ve watched a 20-year-old die. I’ve watched 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds,” with no pre-existing conditions that would have put them at greater risk, she said. “Ninety-nine percent of our patients are unvaccinated. And it’s just so frustrating because the facts just don’t lie and we’re seeing it every day.”
New cases reported at Georgia Southern University have dropped for six consecutive weeks.
Confirmed and self-reported cases at Georgia Southern have fallen from 434 across its three campuses the week of Aug. 16–22, to 17 for the most recent week — Sept. 27–Oct. 3. Of the total number, 13 were on the Statesboro campus, the same as the previous week. There were 389 cases reported on the Statesboro campus for Aug. 16–22.
Bulloch County Schools
Similar to Georgia Southern, reported cases at Bulloch County schools have dropped from 474 for the week of Aug. 15–21 to 7seven for Sept. 26–Oct. 2, after recording 315 the week before. Only six schools reported any cases at all and only one school had more than one new case.
Bulloch County reported 17 new confirmed cases of coronavirus since Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 7,881 since the pandemic began.
Also, Wynn said East Georgia Regional Medical Center has 17 patients hospitalized with COVID and 11 on ventilators on Monday. It is the first time since July 27 the hospital was treating fewer than 20 COVID patients at one time.
In Georgia, there were 6,807 new cases confirmed since Friday. The 1,417 cases on Sunday were the fewest number of cases in a single day since Aug. 1. There were 162 confirmed deaths and 514 new hospitalizations since Friday. Since the pandemic began, there have been 22,785 Georgia residents die due to COVID
The Associated Press contributed to this report.