New COVID variants fuel a rise in cases for Augusta area

Published: Jul. 20, 2022 at 11:22 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 20, 2022 at 11:24 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - COVID infections are on the rise in at least 40 states, including Georgia, with the highly transmissible BA.5 variant dominating the surge.

Richmond County ranks number 32 out of 161 counties for the highest rate of COVID cases.

“We’re seeing that even fully vaccinated and boosted people are also getting COVID,” says Chief Medical Officer Dr. Phillip Coule for Augusta University Medical Center.

In the past two weeks, COVID cases in Columbia and Richmond counties have jumped significantly.

That spike is thanks to a new variant.

“What we are seeing is the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. Those are two variants of Omicron,” says Coule.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report 780 cases in Richmond County and 369 cases in Columbia County.

At least 50 percent of people in both Richmond and Columbia counties have at least one dose of the vaccine.

“The BA.5 variant is highly transmissible. We still know that the majority of transmission of COVID-19 occurs through what is called droplets,” Coule says.

Augusta University Medical has 38 in-house COVID patients, four of whom are in the intensive-care unit.

The only thing that truly stops transmission by both parties is masks.

“Masking reduces the transmissions of this virus,” says Coule.

There is no specific data on the age group of current in-house patients, but he says those in the hospital are mostly at higher risk.

“People that are critically ill are the ones who appear to have the higher chances to require admission to the hospitals,” he says.

Coule says that the good news is that while we are in another COVID wave, it is not nearly as severe as previous waves.

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