COVID-19 updates: A plea from Kemp, nursing homes have no vaccine here, new strain hits U.S. and more

Here are some of the latest developments on COVID-19 in the two-state region.
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 8:31 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Georgia’s governor toured Atlanta’s World Congress Center, which is being turned into a temporary COVID-19 overflow hospital again.

The facility will have 60 additional beds for patients.

The governor says administrators hope to be able to start accepting patients by Thursday.

The center is also serving as a distribution point for $16 million worth of personal protection supplies, which the governor says are ready to go to Georgia’s health care facilities.

“We now have an 80-day supply of critical PPE that any folks may need across the state,” Kemp said during Tuesday’s tour. “The availability is still very good right now. Haven’t heard of too many issues that are out there.”

Kemp is urging Georgians to help keep COVID-19 cases down.

Kemp says it is critical for people to follow safety guidelines, even though vaccines are starting to become available.

“We also need our citizens to help be a part of that solution and not part of the problem … as we go into New Year’s,” he said.

“Let’s help flatten the curve, stop the spread and get these numbers going the opposite direction on our COVID patients in hospitals.”

Vaccine rollout in the Peach State

Today, Augusta University Health will start administering its first doses of the Moderna vaccine.

It already had on hand the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved first.

Meanwhile, none of our local nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the CSRA have either vaccine yet.

News 12 checked with local facilities, where staffs say they’re still waiting on exact dates for when the vaccines will arrive.

When they do come in, they will be given to staff first then residents.

Many local families are waiting so they can be closer to their loved ones.

In our area alone, there have been more than 100 COVID-related deaths in care facilities.

State officials say the Georgia’s more than 600 long-term care facilities should receive doses within the coming weeks.

Biden pledges to step up vaccine pace

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday criticized the Trump administration for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines.

Earlier this month, Trump administration officials said they planned to have 20 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of the year. But according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control, just over 11.4 million doses have been distributed and only 2.1 million people have received their first dose.

Biden, who takes office Jan. 20, said he has directed his team to prepare a “much more aggressive effort, with more federal involvement and leadership, to get things back on track.”

Britain approves another type of shot

Britain on Wednesday became the first country to authorize an easy-to-handle COVID-19 vaccine whose developers hope it will become the “vaccine for the world.”

The vaccine was developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca.

The vaccine is expected to be relied on in many countries because of its low cost, availability and ease of use. It can be kept in refrigerators rather than the ultra-cold storage some other vaccines require.

It may not be quite as effective as the others, though.

New strain shows up in U.S.

A new mutation of the coronavirus found in the United Kingdom could be the reason for a recent case spike here in the U.S.

That’s what one medical expert says after the first American case of the faster-spreading strain was discovered Tuesday in Colorado.

“I think this variant has been here for a while. You only find what you search for, and we’re only really looking for it now,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner of George Washington University. “We may even learn that this variant has potentially been one of the causes of the surge in the United States. I wouldn’t be surprised if we learned that in coming days.”

The patient is currently in isolation as health officials work on contact tracing. He had not traveled recently.

At least 26 countries have reported cases of the new strain, but most medical experts believe the newly rolled-out vaccines should work against it.

Also in the news

From reports by WRDW/WAGT and The Associated Press