As of Thursday, all residents of Bulloch County and the state of Georgia aged 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced the long-awaited expansion as Georgia is set to receive another boost in the weekly shipment of vaccines, largely due to the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine that increased the state’s allotment this week to 450,000 doses, according to the governor.
“This is our ticket back to normal,” Kemp said. “We’re getting closer to that point every single day.”
So far, Georgia has distributed roughly 3.2 million vaccine doses to groups that have gradually become eligible since mid-December, including all residents ages 55 and older, health-care workers, nursing home residents and staff, first responders, judges, courtroom staff and people with physical, mental or behavioral health conditions.
The vaccine rollout has seen nearly 75% of the state’s residents ages 65 and older receive at least their first dose, setting Georgia on a path to having its most vulnerable population inoculated in the coming weeks.
In Bulloch County, more than 24,000 total doses have been administered of mostly the Moderna vaccine. Of the total doses, more than 9,000 have received a second shot, which offers the highest protection against contracting the virus.
The Bulloch County Schools System just completed its third of three vaccination clinics and a total of 271 employees signed up to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to Hayley Greene, public relations director for the system.
Greene emphasized that many more system employees than the ones who received their shots at the clinics have probably received vaccines outside of the clinics.
“Prior to our vaccine clinics, some employees were already eligible for the vaccine, and they obtained it privately,” Greene said. “We do not have data to provide a specific count.”
The vaccines were made available to schools system personnel by a state order on March 8, but Greene said Bulloch County doesn’t require is school employees to be vaccinated.
“The school district does not require the vaccine as a condition of employment, nor do we collect vaccine information on employees,” she said. “We have provided employees a list of available providers for the vaccine if they wish to get it independently.”
Len McCook, co-owner of McCook’s Pharmacy on Highway 80 East in Statesboro, said he has seen a slowdown in demand for vaccinations in the past few days.
“I think the people who really wanted the shot, got theirs as soon as possible,” he said. “There’s definitely some hesitancy out there. People just aren’t sure about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. I tell folks the vaccine is safe and it works.”
Retired educator Dr. Charles Bonds received his shot at the Bulloch County Health Department on March 12.
“I want to show those in the community that the vaccine is safe to receive,” he said. “I encourage those who are eligible to be vaccinated to do so.”
Bulloch residents are urged to contact private providers such as East Georgia Regional Medical Center and local pharmacies directly to see if a vaccine appointment is available. Vaccines also are available at Walgreen’s, CVS and Walmart.
To schedule an appointment at the Bulloch Health Department, call (855) 473-4374. If an appointment is not available at the Altman St. office in Statesboro, they can schedule an appointment at any of the health departments in the area through the same appointment number
Local/state COVID cases
Bulloch County reported five new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the past two days.
Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn said one case was reported on Tuesday and four on Wednesday.
Wynn said Bulloch now has a total of 5,134 confirmed cases since the pandemic began in March 2020. The COVID cases have resulted in 58 confirmed deaths and 209 local residents being hospitalized since the pandemic began in March.
Also, the state Department of Health has reported 45 non-confirmed deaths, which represent Bulloch citizens who received a positive antigen/ rapid test for COVID-19, developed COVID-19 symptoms and then died.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported Bulloch continues to see a decline below 100 COVID cases per 100,000 population, which is one of the first goals in getting the virus under control in a geographic area. On Wednesday, that number was down to 38 cases per 100,000. A month ago, on Feb. 23, Bulloch was at 278 cases per 100,000.
Also, Wynn said the state health department said Bulloch remains below the 5% daily positivity rate of new COVID tests on Wednesday – another key data point in gaining control of the virus. Bulloch is now at 2.9%. A month ago, on Feb. 23, Bulloch was at 16.3%
Across the state, there were 912 new cases reported on Wednesday and 1,115 on Tuesday. The state's total number of confirmed cases is now up to 845,560.
The state reported 75 deaths on Wednesday and 16 on Tuesday. Georgia’s death toll now stands at 16,257 since March 2020.
Wynn said East Georgia Regional Medical Center staff on Wednesday were caring for six COVID patients, with three patients on ventilators.
National case numbers
According to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, as of Monday afternoon, 544,922 Americans had died from coronavirus. Also, Johns Hopkins reported the U.S. has had 29,991,975 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
The Bulloch County Schools system reported two new cases so far this week, and a total of 614 COVID cases since classes started on Aug. 17.
Georgia Southern had 18 total cases reported March 15-21 – 12 self-reported and six university- confirmed cases. GS reported 18 total cases for the week of March 8-14.
Of the cases reported last week, 16 were on the Statesboro campus and two on the Armstrong Savannah campus.
East Georgia State College reported one new case across its three campuses on Monday. The college has had a total of 156 cases across its three campuses since Aug. 17.
Ogeechee Technical College reported no new cases across its campuses for the week of March 15–21.
Ogeechee Tech has had a total of 70 cases across its campuses since Aug. 17.