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COVID cases spike as state responds

Athens-Clarke County saw the biggest spike in COVID cases since September on Christmas Day with 134 new reported cases.

From Dec. 21-27, the case rate per 100,000 people was 503, over a 350% increase from the previous reporting week. Residents should keep in mind that the Athens-Clarke County indoor mask mandate was re-instated when infection rose above the required 7-day case rate, according to the 24th declaration of emergency reinstated on Dec. 7.

As healthcare facilities continue preparing for the surge in omicron cases, St. Mary’s Hospital and Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center are both reporting severe crowding in their respective emergency departments with St. Mary’s at total diversion status.

A nationwide test shortage also presents new problems. If residents can find at-home tests, the Georgia Department of Public Health recommends that those exposed to COVID-19 call 1-888-357-0169 if not contacted by a public health official prior.

This voluntary reporting process for positive results has made tracking the disease a bit difficult. But according to the CDC, nearly 3,000 COVID tests were conducted in Clarke County through Dec. 21 with a 17.7% positivity rate through Dec. 25.

All of this comes in tandem with a reduced isolation period for asymptomatic, COVID-positive people. Those infected and without symptoms only need to isolate for five days and should then wear masks for five more days, the CDC announced on Monday.

“Look, there is no federal solution,” President Biden said during a meeting with state governors on Monday. “This gets solved at a state level.”

But Biden’s remarks also included vowed support to increasing availability for booster shots and free COVID tests, in addition to a rammed up FEMA response.

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp’s office recently announced the deployment of more National Guard troops to assist health centers and testing sites following a single-day record of 13,670 new cases statewide on Tuesday

The CDC also warns that flu season is just getting started, and there’s already an increase in cases in the U.S.

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