Florida is considered the epicenter of the COVID-19 Delta variant, but the “danger zone” is even closer to the Golden Isles.
The No. 1 Delta danger zone in the nation is Charlton County, where only 14.5 percent of the population has been vaccinated.
Charlton’s adjusted per capita infection rate is 62 cases per 100,000.
Nearby Bacon County also made the list at No. 20 where 21.7 percent of people are vaccinated and the infection rate is 26 per 100,000.
In fact, South Georgia has the distinction of having six counties in the top 20, with Lanier, Telfair, Jeff Davis and Treutlen counties joining the list. Heard County, west of the Atlanta area, also made the top 20.
Ginger Heidel, risk communicator for the Coastal Health District, said none of the counties listed is in her health district, but she noted there are challenges in distributing vaccines in rural counties.
“Clearly in places like Chatham and Glynn counties there are more pharmacies and options to get the vaccine,” she said. “If you don’t have as much infrastructure, it could be difficult. There is also less vaccine acceptance in rural counties.”
Charlton County Administrator Hampton Raulerson said he was not overly surprised his county made the list.
“It’s not lack of availability,” he said. “There’s a lot of distrust when it comes to the vaccine. A lot of people thought (COVID-19) was going away.”
Vaccine events at fire stations and other sites in the county have been poorly attended, he said.
Now, people in the county seeking medical help with the virus are impacting hospitals in Camden County and in Florida in Baker County and Jacksonville.
One encouraging sign is a vaccine event held earlier this week in Folkston. It was well attended, Raulerson said.
“I believe the vaccine rates will climb,” he said. “I believe a lot more people will get vaccinated.”
The spread of the virus impacts larger counties where patients are being sent when local hospitals run out of capacity to treat the number of cases requiring treatment.
Since July 27, there have been 42 new cases in Camden County, 42 in Glynn County and two in McIntosh County.
There are currently 42 positive inpatients hospitalized in Brunswick and 13 in St. Marys.
Health system officials Wednesday said the number of patients hospitalized from outside Camden and Glynn counties was not immediately available.
An estimated 39.8 percent of Glynn County residents are vaccinated and 28.4 percent in Camden County.
People needing medical treatment for COVID-19 in Charlton County go to surrounding counties because there is no hospital there.