COVID-19 report image

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

As cases of the COVID-19 delta variant increase throughout 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 increased again at the University of Georgia from last week, according to the university’s reporting system. UGA reported 505 new cases over the week of Aug. 30- Sept. 5, an increase from the 474 cases during the week of Aug. 23-29. The surveillance testing positivity rate was about 3.88% for this week. The World Health Organization recommends communities maintain a positivity rate below 5%.

35.64% of the positive tests — 180 — were conducted at the University Health Center. There were 91 positive tests through surveillance testing, and 234 tests reported from other testing sites.

The UHC is providing 800 saliva tests per day and welcoming walk-ins. Surveillance tests are done outside the UHC, apart from students who are seeking symptomatic testing within the clinic. The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories process the samples, and the findings are delivered to clients within 24 to 48 hours.

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 as well as having a three-day weekend this week, the actual number of COVID-19 cases may be higher than 505.

Georgia currently has the highest numbers of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported Wednesday that 5,926 patients are hospitalized with the virus across the state. Georgia has now reached its highest peak for hospitalizations to date, with the previous high being around 5,700 on Jan. 12.

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

Georgia’s hospitals have about 3% of their intensive care unit beds left for sick patients. Some medical institutions are turning people away due to a lack of space. From Aug. 29-Sept. 4, about 99.0% of COVID-19 cases in the southeastern U.S. were delta variant cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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

As of last Friday, anyone who lives, works or attends school in Athens-Clarke County and has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19 will be eligible for a $100 gift card when they get their first shot at the Clarke County Health Department or other community-based vaccination clinics sponsored by the Northeast Health District in the county.

Data breakdown: University of Georgia

UGA football aims to be completely back to normal for home football games this fall, with a capacity crowd of 92,746 at Sanford Stadium. This year, there will be no masks or social-distancing regulations. Additionally, UGA will not require proof of vaccination to enter the grounds. Tailgating will also be permitted. The first home game is set to be this Saturday against the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

UGA previously mandated vaccines for measles in 1990 because of an outbreak of the disease on campus. During that time, 680 students and 60-80 university workers were suspended and were unable to attend courses or work on the UGA campus because they did not present documentation of a current measles vaccine. Despite these efforts in the past, no such rule has been implemented for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Instead, the University Health Center is providing new incentives to urge people to get vaccinated. Faculty, staff and students who receive their COVID-19 vaccine at the UHC or the Tate Center Mobile Clinic can enter a drawing to win a $100 Visa gift card.

Additionally, any UGA student, faculty member or staff member who has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, regardless of vaccination site, can now enter their name for a chance to win $1,000, according to an Aug. 24 ArchNews email. A total of 100 prizes will be awarded.

Positivity rates and cases are showing drastic rises for the UGA campus as no new protocol is being implemented for the safety and health of students and faculty.

The university conducted 2,347 surveillance tests during the week of Aug. 30-Sept. 5, a significant increase compared to the 1,519 tests last week.

For the week of Aug. 30-Sept. 5, the UHC administered 341 vaccines. Cumulatively, the UHC has administered 25,452 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

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

From Sept. 3-Sept. 8, the county reported 569 new confirmed cases, compared to 524 from Aug. 28-Sept. 2, according to the Georgia DPH. The county’s seven-day average positivity rate was 12.7%.

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 — increased last week. On Sept. 8, there were 302 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, compared to 297 on Sept. 1.

According to the Georgia DPH, about 42% 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 48,045 confirmed COVID-19 cases between Sept. 3-8, a decrease of more than 4,000 from the 52,450 cases between Aug. 28-Sept. 2. The state’s seven-day average positivity rate decreased to 16.5% on Sept. 8.

The number of confirmed deaths in the state decreased — Georgia recorded 366 confirmed COVID-19 deaths between Sept. 3-8 compared to the 425 between Aug. 28-Sept. 2.

According to the DPH, about 4.6 million Georgians have been fully vaccinated, or about 44% of the state. In comparison, the U.S. has a current full vaccination rate of 53%. Approximately 5.4 million Georgians, or 52% 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 every single county in Georgia. The CDC has also released guidelines advising vaccinated individuals to still try their best to follow social distancing, wear masks and frequently wash hands.

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