A dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases in the region has health officials concerned people, especially those who have not been vaccinated, have let down their guard.

An all-time, single-day record of 56 new cases was reported Saturday in Camden County, said Ginger Heidel, risk communicator with the Coastal Health District.

“Our message remains the same — the crisis isn’t over, but unlike last year, we now have vaccines as a powerful new tool to stop the spread of illness,” she said. “But unless more people get vaccinated, the virus will continue circulating in our communities causing illness, hospitalization, and death, and potentially mutating to a stronger virus that causes even more severe illness.”

Since July 16, there have been 94 new COVID-19 cases reported in Camden and Glynn counties. Camden has had 78 new cases in that time period and Glynn County has had 16 reported cases. There are currently 17 people hospitalized in the Southeast Georgia Health System hospital in Brunswick and another nine in the health system’s St. Marys hospital.

Only 28 percent of Camden County residents have received the vaccine. Health department officials said 39.4 percent of Glynn County residents have received the vaccine. Both counties lag behind the state average of nearly 45 percent of people having at least one shot.

Scott Bassett, public information officer at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, said the ongoing spike in cases is being closely monitored.

“We are aware of the numbers the health department is releasing,” he said, “We continue to follow (Department of Defense) and (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance.”

Heidel said it typically takes around 14 days for people to experience symptoms after they contract the virus. But she said it’s difficult to blame the current outbreak on the large July 4th celebrations because they were outdoors.

“Any type of gathering like that could contribute to it,” she said.

The highly transmutable Delta variant of the virus and the large number of unvaccinated people are factors in the surge in cases.

Heidel said the health department continues to encourage unvaccinated people to get their shots to help stop the spread of the virus and prevent a new, more deadly variant from emerging.

The health department has a mobile unit traveling to different communities in the region to give the free vaccine. Health departments are administering the vaccine, with no appointment necessary. Pharmacies throughout the region are also providing free vaccines.

Heidel said she hopes more people who are hesitant to get the vaccine plan to get the shots once the FDA removes the emergency approval and gives official approval to the vaccines.

“We urge people with questions or concerns about vaccination to talk to their healthcare provider or to us in public health, or consult trustworthy, scientific sources online,” Heidel said. “We strongly believe any risk associated with vaccination is minor in comparison with the risk of infection with COVID-19. Vaccination is totally free and available for anyone age 12 and older.”

Another motivation to get the vaccine may be the growing number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

“A lot of people are paying attention,” she said. “We’re not out of the woods yet.”

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