Hospitals across the state are filling up, cities are reviving restrictions and health officials are all but begging Georgians to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
The new Delta variant of the coronavirus is spreading like wildlife.
“COVID-19 case rates are still climbing rapidly in the Coastal Health District, and now all eight of our counties are experiencing high levels of transmission,” Ginger Heidel, risk communicator for the district, wrote in the health department’s newsletter this week.
Glynn, Camden and McIntosh are three of the eight counties in the coastal district.
“Camden County’s COVID-19 transmission rate is higher now than it has been during any previous point in the pandemic — even higher than the post-holiday surge in January,” Heidel wrote.
Southeast Georgia Health System reported 60 new cases of the coronavirus from Thursday to Friday, the most recent figures available. Thirty-seven of those cases surfaced in Camden, 24 in Glynn and two in McIntosh.
As of Friday, the health system’s hospital in Brunswick was treating 49 cases and its sister facility in St. Marys 13 cases. Not all cases require hospitalization.
Other hospitals across the state are reporting similar figures. A few are overwhelmed and are having to send COVID-19 patients to facilities in neighboring counties.
“Nationwide, COVID-19 cases have increased over 300% in just one month, from mid-June to mid-July,” Heidel said in the newsletter. “Health experts believe this latest surge is driven primarily by the Delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.
“The emerging evidence about the Delta variant shows that it’s much more contagious than previous strains. This is partly because people infected with Delta have higher viral loads — meaning more virus in their body — than with previous variants.”
As of now, the vast majority of transmission appears to be occurring between unvaccinated individuals, she said.
“However, Delta is causing some ‘vaccine breakthrough infections,’ meaning infections in fully vaccinated people,” she noted in the newsletter.
It’s one of the reasons why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to once again wear masks when out in public.
“New studies suggest that some vaccinated people can be contagious if they get Delta and could transmit the virus to others,” she said in the weekly report. “That’s why in areas of high transmission like the Coastal Health District, the CDC recommends that all people — including the vaccinated — wear a mask in public indoor settings to prevent spread and protect themselves and others.
“If you are vaccinated, the good news is that most breakthrough infections are mild. Vaccines are working as they should — they are preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death in those who are fully vaccinated.”
Then there’s the flip side.
“The bad news for all of us is that variants are expected as long as transmission continues, which means we are in a race against time to increase vaccination coverage,” Heidel wrote. “High vaccination coverage will reduce spread of the virus and help prevent new variants from emerging. Vaccination is the best way to protect you, your family and your community.”
The vaccination rate in Glynn as of Friday was 39.9%. In Camden it was 28.5 %.
Brunswick is among the cities in Georgia taking action in the wake of the new surge. It has joined Atlanta and Savannah in requiring masks when inside public buildings in the city.
To date, health officials attribute 161 deaths in Glynn County, 36 in Camden County and 14 in McIntosh County to COVID-19 since the pandemic began in 2020. The totals are part of the 843 COVID-19-related deaths reported throughout the district’s eight counties, which includes the more populated Chatham County. The toll is 1.9% of 45,446 confirmed cases.
Statewide, the casualty total is 18,711, 2% of the 932,145 cases reported in all of Georgia’s 159 counties.
As of Friday, the national COVID-19 death toll stood at 610,873 deaths, or about 1.8% of 34,926,462 documented cases.
To sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine with Southeast Georgia Health System, go to SGHS.org/COVID19-Vaccine.
COVID-19 tests are available at local health departments. To schedule an appointment, call 912-230-9744.
A mobile vaccination clinic will be in Camden County from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at St. Marys First Presbyterian Church, 100 Conyers St. West, St. Marys.