COVID updates: What’s ahead for CSRA schools, hospitals?

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 3:30 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Health officials say hospitalizations in the U.S. for kids and teens has risen about five times the amount as from the beginning of summer.

They say that’s being fueled by the delta variant of the coronavirus.

With that backdrop, some CSRA school districts are having kids learn from home in coming days, while others are sending kids back to campus after a couple of weeks of learning from home.

In Richmond County, students will be learning from home for the next two days while schools get a deep cleaning. They’re set to go back to campus Thursday. In the most recent statistics reported Friday, the Richmond County School System said last week that it saw a total of 197 coronavirus cases last week, nine more student cases than the week before. The district also had 61 employees test positive, five more than the week before.

Over in Columbia County, students will be heading back to class Tuesday. The Columbia County School System last week reported 365 students tested positive along with and 44 employees.

In Aiken County, school is back in session Tuesday. And district leaders are set for a specially called meeting after a COVID-positive fourth-grader died last week. A 10th-grader also died, but we’re waiting to hear back from school officials on the cause. School leaders will discuss COVID concerns impacting the district, which last week reported that 4,000 students were in quarantine. Despite that, it can’t impose a mask mandate for students due to a stipulation in the state budget that was upheld last week by the South Carolina Supreme Court.

Elsewhere in the CSRA, several of our rural school districts are headed back to the classroom this week.

Starting Tuesday, students in Screven and Warren counties are back to full in-person learning.

The Fort Gordon School-Age Center also opens back up Tuesday.

Starting Thursday, schools in Jenkins and Allendale counties schools will go back to in-person learning. Jenkins County schools will be on a hybrid schedule, so students with a last name starting with A through K are in person Mondays and Tuesdays, while other students are in class Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are teacher planning days.

This map from the South Carolina Department of Educations shows which learning methods...
This map from the South Carolina Department of Educations shows which learning methods districts are using across the state.(SC Department of Education)

How hospitals are handling the spike

Hospitals across the country and in the CSRA continue to be flooded by COVID patients.

Augusta University Health on Monday had 131 coronavirus inpatients, up three from Sunday. Of those, 125 are unvaccinated and six are children. Of the 55 in intensive care, 53 are unvaccinated. Of the 43 on ventilators, 42 are unvaccinated.

Doctors aren’t even sure yet if this is as bad as it’s going to get. The fear is that after Labor Day, it might get worse. That’s typically what’s happened after holidays since the pandemic began.

“I’m hoping that we are at the peak now,” said Dr. Rodger MacArthur, infectious disease expert at AU Health.

MacArthur says just over a month ago we were down to 500 patients statewide and about four patients at AU Health

That was before the super-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus started spreading.

“Six thousand Georgians hospitalized and most of those who are hospitalized, within the last three or four weeks,” MacArthur said.

The number of COVID cases locally has exceeded the January peak, and the virus is spreading at a much faster rate.

MacArthur says it’s unclear whether things will get worse locally after the holiday, but vaccine rates across the state are picking up.

“We’re seeing evidence that it might be leveling off a bit, maybe starting to decrease,” MacArthur said.

Where we stand on vaccines

Health experts continue to say vaccination is the best protection against COVID.

Those who’ve already been vaccinated may wonder where we are with the booster shot rollout.

People who received the Pfizer vaccine might be able to get a booster shot first. The Pfizer booster shot plan will be reviewed Sept. 17.

But people who got the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine will probably have to wait longer, since health officials are waiting on more information before signing off on those doses.

National infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says he believes all Americans will need a third dose of the vaccine to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“We need the boost. Ultimately it may turn out … that the ultimate proper immunization regiment is a three-dose regimen. … Remember we made it a two-dose regimen we were dealing with an emergent situation. We needed to get those vaccines out because they were life-saving, and in fact they have been life-saving,” Fauci said.

As for mixing the vaccines, Fauci says there should more information about that in the coming weeks.

But he does say if you got Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, it’s better to wait until your doses are approved, rather than getting a Pfizer booster.

Also in the news ...

BRADY INFECTION: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady said he tested positive for COVID-19 after his seventh Super Bowl win. Brady said he tested positive back in February, not long after the team’s championship boat parade celebrating their win against the Kansas City Chiefs. Brady is now fully vaccinated against the virus.

NO SHOT, NO DOC: A South Miami doctor will stop treating patients who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, citing the safety of other patients and staff. “I understand that people are free to choose, but to me, it’s a problem when it affects other people,” Dr. Linda Marraccini said.

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