Reports of new COVID-19 cases saw a significant decline in the past week at Georgia Southern University and in the Bulloch County Schools System, while new cases leveled off across Bulloch County over the weekend.
But the state of Georgia recorded its second highest number of cases in a single day on Saturday, with only the 10,173 cases on Jan. 8 topping the 9,760 new cases recorded Saturday.
The continued rise in cases has resulted in a corresponding rise in hospitalizations that caused Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday to announce a commitment of up to 2,500 Georgia National Guard troops to fighting the surge of COVID-19 cases across the state.
The newly assigned troops will be given non-medical assignments, the governor said. Kemp said hospital executives told him they need help with such tasks as directing traffic, staffing cafeterias and cleaning rooms.
More than 5,600 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across Georgia on Monday, nearly one-third of all people in hospitals. That’s just short of the record of 5,715 set on Jan. 13.
Bulloch County’s Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn said East Georgia Regional Medical Center was treating 67 patients hospitalized with COVID on Monday – down from the record 73 patients last Thursday.
However, 20 patients are on ventilators, which is the most at any one time at EGRMC since the pandemic began.
After both reporting a record number of cases the previous week, Georgia Southern University and Bulloch County Schools saw steep declines in cases last week.
Georgia Southern had confirmed and self-reported 434 cases across its three campuses the week of Aug. 16-22, but that number dropped to 277 for Aug. 23-29. Of the total number, 230 were on the Statesboro campus, compared to 389 the previous week.
Meanwhile, reported cases at Bulloch County schools dropped from 474 for the week of Aug. 15-21 to 245 for Aug. 22-28.
Statesboro High reported the most new cases last week with 42, compared to 121 the week before. Among middle schools, Southeast Bulloch had the most with 25, and Mattie Lively and the most among elementary schools with 21.
The Department of Health reported 19,083 confirmed cases since Friday and the total number of cases since the pandemic began stands at 1,084,225 – an increase of nearly 48,000 in the past week.
The 9,760 new cases reported on Saturday was the second highest since the coronavirus pandemic first hit Georgia in March 2020, state Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Kathleen Toomey said.
Toomey said many of the newer cases involve school-age children, particularly those ages 11 to 17.
“Children are getting infected and transmitting to other family members,” she said.
Toomey said the three vaccines that have proven effective against COVID-19 continue to work well against the virus, including the highly contagious delta variant.
While 168 vaccinated Georgians have died from the disease, that represents a tiny percentage of the 22,600 total deaths from COVID-19, she said.
“We have the capacity to vaccinate more and more people,” she said. “We’re just not getting people coming to be vaccinated.”
Mass vaccination sites have worked well to increase the number of vaccinated Georgians.
But Toomey said some health-care workers giving shots have been harassed by people opposed to vaccinations. One site even had to close due to threats, she said.
“This is wrong. These people are giving their lives to help others,” she said. “We should be thanking these individuals.”
Kemp said vaccination incentives have paid off. He cited DeKalb County, where 2,500 people were vaccinated during a single event.
The governor also announced on Monday that the Georgia Department of Community Health will offer $150 Visa gift cards or $480 in credit for health-care expenses to State Health Benefit Plan members as a vaccination incentive.
Vaccines locally are readily available at area pharmacies, doctors’ offices and the Bulloch County Health Department.
New cases around the U.S. are now averaging about 156,000 per day, according to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, along with an average of 1,296 deaths per day due to COVID.
MAKO Medical offers testing services on Railroad St. in downtown Statesboro Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the last Saturday of each month from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
MAKO will ask for your insurance, but patients without insurance will not have to pay anything for testing. Results are available in two to three days.