COVID-19 report image

The Red & Black is providing weekly updates on COVID-19, focusing on Athens and Georgia. (Sophia Haynes/Design Editor)

As the COVID-19 delta variant continues to spread across the nation, questions about booster shots, hospitalizations and vaccine hesitancy leave many frustrated. As part of The Red & Black’s health news coverage, we are publishing weekly reports on news relating to COVID-19 and its recent statistics. 

Major updates

COVID-19 cases decreased by 20 at the University of Georgia from last week, according to the university’s reporting system, sitting at the lowest case number since classes began this semester. UGA reported 28 new cases over the week of Oct. 4-10, a decrease from the 48 cases during the week of Sept. 27-Oct. 3. The surveillance testing positivity rate was about 0.43% for this week.

Three of the positive tests — about 10.71% — were conducted at the University Health Center. There were three positive tests through surveillance testing, seven positive tests in Athens and 15 tests reported from other testing sites.

Students that test positive for COVID-19 off-campus are required to report it to DawgCheck, UGA’s monitoring tool. Because students may have tested positive off-campus and not reported it, the actual number of COVID-19 cases may be higher than 28.

The Red & Black conducted a survey asking various questions about vaccination, mask mandates and more. According to the survey, about 25% of those surveyed stated that they have been diagnosed with COVID-19 before. More analysis from the survey will be published soon.

On Sept. 22, the Food and Drug Administration approved booster shots for people who received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago and fall into certain categories. The FDA approved booster shots for people who are either at least 65 years old or adults who are “at high risk of severe COVID-19” or who work or live in high-risk settings.

The UHC has received booster shot doses to administer.

Booster shots for adults by Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have not yet been approved by regulators, but an FDA panel is set to meet Oct. 14-15 to consider booster doses for adults.

On Tuesday, scientists at the FDA stated that Moderna had not met the criteria needed to authorize its booster shot yet. According to early results from a federal clinical trial published on Wednesday, those who got a Johnson & Johnson vaccination may benefit from a booster shot from Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech.

On Monday, Merck said that it is seeking emergency use authorization by the FDA for its antiviral COVID-19 treatment named “molnupiravir.” The medication, which is a capsule and developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, would be the first oral antiviral therapy to combat COVID-19 if approval is granted. 

Georgia’s hospitals have about 13% of their intensive care unit beds left for sick patients. From Oct. 3-9, about 99.9% of COVID-19 cases in the Southeastern U.S. were delta variant cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The majority of people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

Georgia’s case data by age shows children aged 0-17 are the second-highest in contracting the virus out of all age groups. The highest rate is in those aged 30-59.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget issued new guidelines on Monday afternoon, ahead of the Nov. 22 deadline for certain workers to be completely vaccinated under President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate, listing specific medical circumstances that would justify an exemption, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Workers must have their first vaccination within two weeks after an exemption request being refused or a medical issue being resolved, according to the rules. They also state that if federal authorities conclude that no alternative safety approach is acceptable, they may reject medical or religious exemptions.

Data breakdown: University of Georgia

The university conducted 695 surveillance tests during the week of Oct. 4-8, a decrease compared to the 843 tests last week. With fewer tests occurring, fewer cases are able to be detected.

Of the total positive cases this week, nine of them belonged to employees and 19 belonged to students.

For the week of Oct. 4-10, the UHC administered 471 vaccines, a decrease from the 530 administered last week. Cumulatively, the UHC has administered 27,449 vaccines.

Students and faculty may book a vaccine appointment at the UHC Vaccine Portal or get vaccinated at any University System of Georgia school. Students may also get tested for COVID-19 at the UHC with walk-in appointments.

Data breakdown: Athens-Clarke County

According to the DPH, from Oct. 8-13, the county reported 84 new confirmed cases, compared to 135 from Oct. 2-7, according to the Georgia DPH. The county’s seven-day average positivity rate was 5.8%. The World Health Organization recommends communities maintain a positivity rate below 5%.

This week, ACC reported zero confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

According to the Georgia Geospatial Information Office, the number of current hospitalizations in Region E — which includes ACC and several surrounding counties — decreased last week. On Oct. 13, there were 104 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, compared to 118 on Oct. 6.

According to the Georgia DPH, about 45% of the county is fully vaccinated. This percentage is below what is needed to achieve herd immunity, when enough people are vaccinated to stop or severely slow transmission of the virus.

Data breakdown: Georgia

Statewide, the weekly rate of new confirmed COVID-19 cases has decreased.

According to the DPH, Georgia reported 12,739 confirmed COVID-19 cases between Oct. 8-13. This is a decrease of about 5,800 from the 18,584 cases between Oct. 2-7. The state’s seven-day average positivity rate decreased to 7.7% on Oct. 13, according to current data.

The number of confirmed deaths in the state decreased drastically — Georgia recorded 339 confirmed COVID-19 deaths between Oct. 8-13 compared to the 614 between Oct. 2-7.

According to the DPH, about 5 million Georgians have been fully vaccinated, or about 49% of the state. In comparison, the U.S. has a current full vaccination rate of 56%. Approximately 5.7 million Georgians, or 55% of the state, have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

According to the CDC, even fully vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors if in an area of substantial or high transmission. Currently, the CDC says Clarke County’s level of community transmission is high, along with most other counties in Georgia. The CDC has also released guidelines advising vaccinated individuals to still wear masks over their nose and mouth when in public, indoor settings.

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