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Local COVID cases down 84% since Jan. 24
Kemp proposes mask mandate limits in schools
Students walk down the hallway at Tussahaw Elementary school in August 2021, in McDonough, Ga., with some in masks and some unmasked. Gov. Brian Kemp has said he would propose a law that would let parents opt their students out of masks in Georgia school
Students walk down the hallway at Tussahaw Elementary school in August 2021, in McDonough, Ga., with some in masks and some unmasked. Gov. Brian Kemp has said he would propose a law that would let parents opt their students out of masks in Georgia school districts that require them for all students to prevent the spread of COVID-19. - photo by Associated Press

The number of new COVID-19 cases in Bulloch County continued to see a dramatic decline during the past week — a trend that began three weeks ago.

At the same time, the Georgia Department of Public Health attributed the deaths of six Bulloch residents since Feb. 9 to the coronavirus, which marked the highest number of local deaths in a seven-day period since seven died the week of Sept. 27–Oct. 3.

Bulloch and Georgia are following a national trend that has seen U.S. cases falling fast, down to about 175,000 daily, a nearly two-thirds drop over two weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But hospitalizations, at about 95,000, and deaths, at more than 2,400 daily, remain high.

At East Georgia Regional Medical Center, Ted Wynn, director of the Bulloch Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency, said the hospital was treating 21 COVID-19 patients on Monday, with six on ventilators. That compares with 29 patients last week and six on ventilators.

During the omicron surge, East Georgia has never come close to reaching the number of COVID patients hospitalized in the delta surge. On Aug. 27, 2021, 73 COVID patients were hospitalized at EGRMC — the highest local single-day total since the pandemic began.

The Department of Health said Bulloch County reported 139 new COVID cases in the past week. In the weeks since Jan. 18–24, new local cases have fallen from 862 to 504 to 236 to the 139 cases recorded for Feb. 8–14 — that’s a decline of 84% since Jan. 24.

 

Mask mandates at Georgia schools

While Bulloch County Schools never implemented a mask mandate, Republican Sen. Clint Dixon of Buford is introducing a measure in the legislature, supported by Gov. Brian Kemp, that would say school districts couldn't require face coverings unless parents could opt their children out without giving a reason. The bill also says no student could be disciplined or receive a worse grade if their parent says they don't have to wear a mask.

“We got to continue to move back to more normal operations,” Kemp said. “We’re trusting our parents every day on whether to send their kids to school or not, if they’re not feeling well, if they have a fever. We can certainly do that in terms of masks at this point in the pandemic.”

A survey by the state Department of Public Health earlier this month showed at least 44 of Georgia's 180 school districts then required masks in at least one school, as well as at least 16 independent charter schools.

Kemp had earlier discouraged masks but said he would ultimately leave the decision up to local school districts. That's in keeping with a generally decentralized public education culture in the state.

Georgia last week recorded about 5,800 COVID-19 cases in children ages 5 to 17. That's down sharply from more than 13,000 the week before, but still far above the roughly 1,000 cases in school-age children that Georgia was recording in early November.

 

Bulloch County Schools

Bulloch County Schools reported only 22 new COVID cases for the week of Feb. 6–12, down from 91 the week before and from the 216 cases reported Jan. 23–29. No school had more than four cases, and five schools reported zero cases.

 

Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University has seen the number of COVID cases drop from 502 reported across its three campuses the week of Jan. 17–23 to 65 for the week of Feb. 7–13. Also, 54 of the cases were reported on the Statesboro campus, a huge decline from the 201 cases recorded for the week of Jan. 24–30.

 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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