Georgia and the United States could be heading for a new wave of COVID-19, but public health officials hope new infections won’t lead to new hospitalizations and deaths like in previous waves, as more residents are now vaccinated.
In the United States and Georgia, the number of COVID-19 cases has remained relatively stable, although data shows that a type of COVID-19 called the BA.5 subvariant has increased rapidly and is now at 65%. cases.
“This BA.5 subvariant is much more transmissible and does have an inherent increased ability to evade immunity, both to natural infection and also to prior vaccine,” the state epidemiologist said Tuesday. , Dr. Cherie Drenzek, at a meeting of the state Department of Public Health. . “For this reason, it is likely that we will also experience future increases in cases as the (subvariant) continues to spread.”
The average number of infections in Georgia rose from 1,650 in the last week of May to 2,244 in the last week of June, and hospitalizations are also moving in the wrong direction.
COVID-19 patients made up 7.5% of all admissions in Georgia on Tuesday, up from 6.8% the previous week, according to the Georgia Hospital Association. Around this time last month, COVID patients made up about 4.8% of admissions. The highest rate in the state came in September 2021, when 35.7% of hospitalized patients were being treated for COVID-19.
“Our hospitalizations are going up a bit, but our deaths are also going down,” Drenzek said. “The serious consequences that we were seeing before in relation to the number of cases are not there. These boosters still hold up very well against serious consequences, and I also want to point out, although with this BA.5 increase, just looking at the daily case count isn’t always an accurate view of what’s going on. , we’re seeing increased community transmission, the magnitude of this wave is greater than the number indicated due to home testing and other factors.
“Anyway, even traditional caution and prevention measures from the start are very careful, but above all vaccination and booster,” she added.
Drenzek was assisted by Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey.
“I hear people say to me right at the store, not necessarily here in public health, but when I meet them on the street, ‘Why should I get vaccinated? Why should I be boosted? I know people who are infected, and they had all these boosters, they had all the vaccines,” she said. “And I just want to remind everyone, not only how important this is, but that we don’t see the increase in deaths, we don’t see the increase in hospitalizations reciprocal to what we know the number of cases is increasing in the community.”
About 55% of Georgia residents are fully immunized, putting the state at the bottom of the national rankings. About 67% of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by The New York Times.
To help convince the remaining unvaccinated Georgians, the state health department is launching a new advertising campaign on broadcast and social media, as well as on billboards and bus stops.
The campaign, titled “It’s so simplefeatures photographs of smiling people engaging in activities such as shopping, eating out, and going to church.
“We’re going after a COVID-weary audience not telling them what to do but reminding them of some of the things they’ve missed over the past few years,” said department communications director Nancy Nydam. “And we’re leaning heavily on images that remind people of these things and say these are possible again, thanks in large part to COVID vax and boosters.”
The Biden administration on Tuesday published details of its BA.5 strain management strategy, which includes providing vaccines, boosters and masks and raising public awareness of their use.
“To confront BA.5, the administration will continue to mobilize the full force and ability of the federal government and work with state and local leaders, health care workers, the private sector, and community and faith-based organizations to ensure that the U.S. government people have easy and convenient access to and use vaccines, tests and treatments,” the White House said in a statement.
Yet government efforts to promote COVID-19 safety continue to be met with skepticism. Last summer, Toomey said several events were disrupted by anti-vaccine protesters and one was shut down.
On Tuesday, former Republican U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler retweeted a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing Biden for prolonging the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“The government WANTS an endless COVID emergency to justify the endless expansion of the welfare state,” Loeffler wrote. “Not just vote buying before the midterm elections, but socialism. It’s always been about control.