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Health officials say travel risk much lower this Memorial Day

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 8:53 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - At I-20 near the state line traffic around this time is always heavy. But in just a few days we can expect a lot more drivers out on the road. Triple A predicts more than 37 million people will travel this memorial day weekend.

With so many people traveling it feels like we’re getting back to normal. But our vaccination numbers in the two-state show we’re nowhere the 70 percent vaccination rate we need to be at for herd immunity. Only 38 percent of Georgians have gotten at least one dose and in South Carolina almost 44 percent have.

So we wanted to know is it safe to travel?

Everyone expects a huge travel weekend. If you remember last memorial day COVID had calmed down and then it surged like we had never seen before. Health officials don’t expect to see that again.

“If people are being responsible, they get vaccinated, and they know they are at low risk it’s fine for them to go without wearing a mask,” said Dr. Phillip Coule of Augusta University Health.

Coule says he’s thankful that this memorial day is different than the last. But for those not vaccinated the risk is still there.

“I like to remind people that we have healthy 30-year-olds that get admitted to the hospital that end up dying of this disease,” he said. “It is very real, and the risk is real.”

But the risk is much lower.

University Hospital has nine COVID patients. The lowest number since last June. AU Health has 11 active COVID patients.

“For the unvaccinated, the overall risk in the community right now is relatively low,” he said. “However, that risk is always changing.”

Here’s why the more people travel and remain unvaccinated the higher risk of spread. And health officials continue to battle misinformation.

“People should really take a step back and say, ‘What does the data say? What is the truth? What sources should I be listening to?’” he said.

Dr. Coule says as long as the health system is able to easily handle rising cases this issue comes down to personal responsibility.

“We want to remain cautious. We don’t want to throw caution to the wind. You still need to get vaccinated,” he said.

AU says they are starting to transition their vaccination effort, even considering offering walk-in appointments moving forward. They believe the future of the vaccine likely lies in pharmacies and doctors offices. Just like other vaccines.

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