Only 27 new cases of COVID-19 were reported over the weekend in Bulloch County, but the Georgia Department of Public Health said four more local residents died due to the virus since Friday.
Since Aug. 10, there have been 20 confirmed and 15 probable deaths — 35 total — of Bulloch citizens reported by the Department of Health. The Department of Health defines a probable death as a patient who receives a positive Antigen/rapid test for COVID-19, developed symptoms and then died. On Saturday, the state reported 191 people died from COVID, which is the most in any single day since the pandemic began in March 2020.
“It certainly is a positive sign to see the number of cases decline,” said Ted Wynn, director of the Bulloch Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency. “But the recent high number of deaths again reminds us of the sad and tragic toll the pandemic has taken on us. If you haven’t gotten a vaccine, please think again and talk to your doctor or someone you trust. It might save your life and maybe somebody else’s.”
Bulloch County continues to have one of the lowest vaccine rates in the state with only 36% of residents fully vaccinated, compared to 46% for Georgia. Vaccines are free and are available at local pharmacies, doctors’ offices and the Public Health Department.
In an effort to make the vaccine even more readily available and offering people a financial incentive to get a shot, as well, the city of Statesboro, along with the Bulloch County NAACP and Squashing the Spread Bulloch County, held a vaccine clinic on Saturday at Luetta Moore Park.
Using federal COVID relief money, the City Council voted to fund 300 $50 gift cards that would be given to anyone receiving a shot Saturday. Layne Phillips, public information officer for the city said 87 people were vaccinated on Saturday and all received a gift card. In an email, Phillips said the city is planning to host an additional clinic at City Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 28, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"We are very pleased with the turnout on Saturday,” said Statesboro Mayor Jonathan McCollar. “We've been able to vaccinate 155 people so far through the city-sponsored vaccine clinics, and we hope to host more in the future. Getting our citizens vaccinated is the best way to put an end to the pandemic. Statesboro's City Council and I are committed to doing what it takes to keep our citizens safe and healthy."
Other Georgia cities are offering incentives to employees specifically to get vaccinated. The Associated Press reported Brunswick, Gainesville and Moultrie all give $500 to vaccinated employees.
New cases reported at Georgia Southern University have dropped significantly for four 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 31 for the most recent week — Sept. 13–19. Of the total number, 24 were on the Statesboro campus, compared to 72 the previous week, 86 the week before that and 389 for Aug. 16–22.
Like Georgia Southern, new cases of COVID-19 on most University System of Georgia campuses have been coming down after increasing at the beginning of the fall semester.
The number of positive tests reported at nine schools — including Georgia Southern, the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech — declined this week, mirroring a trend that occurred at the same time last year.
“Whenever we see a decline in cases, we are grateful, and we hope this downward trend holds,” said Dr. Shelley Nuss, co-chair of UGA’s Medical Oversight Task Force. “We saw a similar pattern last fall: a peak in cases shortly after we began classes that then fell markedly and leveled off.
“We hope that with our continued push to encourage vaccinations, testing and masking, our numbers will continue to decline. COVID-19 is a very serious disease, and vaccines remain our best defense.”
The decline in positive tests for the virus came as the campuses ramped up vaccination campaigns stressed continuing health and safety protocols.
More than 313,000 COVID-19 tests have been sent to campuses, and an additional 50,000 tests are on the way. The university system also has distributed 942,000 gloves, 432,000 masks and face shields, 21,400 gowns and about 1,000 gallons of sanitizer and disinfectant solution.
Bulloch County Schools
Similarly to Georgia Southern, reported cases at Bulloch County schools have dropped from 474 for the week of Aug. 15–21 to 36 for Sept. 12–18, which is up two from the week before. Statesboro High has seen new cases fall from 121 for Aug. 15–21 to 4 last week. Similarly, Southeast Bulloch High reported no new cases last week.
Local, state cases
Patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at East Georgia Regional Medical Center have fallen from a high of 73 on Aug. 26 to 43 reported on Monday, Wynn said. There were 20 patients on ventilators Monday after hitting a pandemic high of 24 last week.
In Bulloch County, the Department of Health said there were 27 new confirmed cases reported since Friday. In Georgia, there were 9,490 new cases on over the weekend, 191 confirmed deaths and 816 hospitalizations.
The U.S. is averaging 2,011 COVID-19 deaths and 148,000 new cases per day. The country is still below the peaks reached in January, when it was averaging about 3,400 deaths and a quarter-million cases per day.
Georgia Health News contributed to this report.