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 rose just slightly at the University of Georgia from last week, according to the university’s reporting system. UGA reported 91 new cases over the week of Sept. 20-26, a slight increase from the 82 cases during the week of Sept. 13-19. The surveillance testing positivity rate was about 1.64% for this week. The World Health Organization recommends communities maintain a positivity rate below 5%.

21.98% of the positive tests — 20 — were conducted at the University Health Center. There were 19 positive tests through surveillance testing, 20 positive tests in Athens & the local community and 32 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 91.

On September 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.

Georgia’s hospitals have about 10% of their intensive care unit beds left for sick patients. Some medical institutions are turning people away due to a lack of space. From Sept. 19-25, about 98.8% 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.

Data breakdown: University of Georgia

The university conducted 1,158 surveillance tests during the week of Sept 20-24, a decrease compared to the 1,196 tests last week. With fewer tests occurring, fewer cases are able to be detected.

Of the total positive cases this week, 24 of them belonged to employees and 67 belonged to students.

For the week of Sept. 20-26, the UHC administered 275 vaccines, fewer than the 333 administered last week. Cumulatively, the UHC has administered 26,453 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.

More than 50 life sciences faculty members at the University of Georgia are planning to require masks in their classroom, challenging state university system rules. The faculty members sent a letter to the University System of Georgia stating they will be requiring all students and staff in their classes and laboratories to wear masks, even though USG prohibits these requirements.

With no mask or vaccine mandates on campus, these faculty members are taking matters into their own hands to protect themselves, each other and their students, they said.

Data breakdown: Athens-Clarke County

Last week, Athens-Clarke County saw a decrease of new confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to the week before.

From Sept. 24-29, the county reported 185 new confirmed cases, compared to 334 from Sept. 18-23, according to the Georgia DPH. The county’s seven-day average positivity rate was 9.7%.

This week, ACC reported four 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 Sept. 29, there were 161 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, compared to 215 on Sept. 22.

According to the Georgia DPH, about 44% 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.

Georgia reported 21,386 confirmed COVID-19 cases between Sept. 24-29, a decrease of about 7,000 from the 28,761 cases between Sept. 18-23. The state’s seven-day average positivity rate decreased to 9.9% on Sept. 29.

The number of confirmed deaths in the state decreased — Georgia recorded 498 confirmed COVID-19 deaths between Sept. 24-29 compared to the 629 between Sept. 18-23.

According to the DPH, about 4.9 million Georgians have been fully vaccinated, or about 47% of the state. In comparison, the U.S. has a current full vaccination rate of 55%. Approximately 5.6 million Georgians, or 54% of the state, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. According to 2019 estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Georgia has a total population of about 10.6 million.

According to the CDC, fully vaccinated individuals 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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