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Georgia surpasses 1 million coronavirus cases since start of pandemic

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 9:01 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2021 at 7:11 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Georgia has reached a grim milestone in the COVID-19 pandemic, hitting more than a million cases since the start of the pandemic.

As of Tuesday, the Peach State has now seen 1,000,872 coronavirus cases, 19,044 confirmed deaths and 69,367 hospitalizations.

Driven by the super-contagious delta virus, an ongoing spike in COVID cases pushed the state over the 1 million mark just a few weeks after the pandemic seemed all but over as CSRA hospitals saw inpatient counts in the single digits.

Meanwhile across the Savannah River in South Carolina, figures from the state’s health agency back up what experts have been telling us: The current COVID-19 surge is largely among people who are not vaccinated against coronavirus.

The agency said a June analysis revealed more than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases and deaths in June and 86 percent of hospitalizations were among individuals who were not fully vaccinated. Then the agency found similar results for July.

In July, the agency reported 26,848 cases among South Carolinians. The agency said:

  • Among the 14,262 reported cases in which the agency were able to determine vaccine status, 12,491 (88 percent) were not fully vaccinated.
  • Among the 550 reported people who were hospitalized with COVID and vaccine status could be determined, 424 (77 percent) were not fully vaccinated.
  • Among the 110 reported deaths from COVID in which vaccine status could be determined, 87 (79 percent) were not fully vaccinated.

“Obviously, we are seeing an increase in breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths for the month of July,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC public health director.

Breakthrough cases are ones in which someone gets infected despite being vaccinated.

The rise of highly transmissible variants like delta and lagging vaccination rates have led to increases in these categories overall, Traxler said.

“But it is important to note that cases, hospitalizations, and deaths among fully vaccinated residents are still rare,” Traxler said. “And in most situations of breakthrough cases, the person has no symptoms or very mild ones that clear up in a matter of days.”

An individual is considered fully vaccinated 14 days or more after completing their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The agency pointed out that breakthrough cases are expected with any type of vaccine. While vaccines can prevent catching a virus, the main goal of inoculation is preventing severe illness if the virus is contracted.

“Data still shows that vaccinations can end this pandemic if enough people are willing to roll up their sleeves,” Traxler said.

“We are at the most crucial point yet in our fight against COVID-19. Our children are going back to school and more people are visiting businesses and attending large-scale events. We need everyone to unite for the same goal of stopping COVID-19 spread. That means getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and following other safety and health protocols.”

How local hospitals are faring

The current COVID surge, fueled by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus, continues to have keep hospitals full of more COVID inpatients than they were seeing at the beginning of July, when inpatient counts had dipped to single digits.

The spike on the right side of this chart shows the current COVID surge.

Here’s a look at Tuesday’s inpatient totals for local hospitals:

  • University Hospital in Augusta reported 104 COVID inpatients, down six from the day before. Of the 104 inpatients, five have been fully vaccinated. Of the eight on ventilators and 14 in intensive care, none have been vaccinated.
  • Doctors Hospital reported 57 COVID inpatients Tuesday, down three from Monday. The hospital said 54 of Tuesday’s inpatients are unvaccinated.
  • The Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center reported 61 COVID inpatients Tuesday, up one from Monday.
  • Augusta University Health had 93 patients, up five from Monday. Eight of AU’s patients are children, up one from Monday.

S.C. leaders offer update on schools

South Carolina state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, state Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell and members of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics held a news conference Tuesday to discuss recommendations for COVID-19 school operations. Watch the news conference here:

Also in the news ...

COVID HITTING KIDS: The American Academy of Pediatrics reported more than 121,000 COVID cases among children last week. That’s 18% of all cases nationally. COVID-19 has been increasing in children since the beginning of July as the highly contagious delta variant began to take hold.

BOOSTER SHOTS: U.S. experts are expected to recommend COVID-19 vaccine boosters for all Americans, regardless of age, eight months after they received their second dose of the shot, to ensure lasting protection against the coronavirus as the delta variant spreads across the country.

KEMP’S PLAN: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says the state will spend another $125 million to increase staffing at hospitals funding 1,500 more health care workers through the beginning of December. Kemp also announced he’s closing state offices on the Friday before Labor Day to encourage unvaccinated employees to get the shot. But he continued his opposition to vaccine or mask mandates.

SCHOOL CLOSURES: The Screven County School System joins Burke, Glascock and Taliaferro counties in shut down campuses because of the surge in COVID-19 cases. Screven County students will learn from home through Labor Day and then return to new protection protocols in the classrooms.

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