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As COVID cases surge again, CCSD students return to classes; hospital officials worry about omicron

As COVID-19 cases rise, Clarke County School District students are back in the classroom today after their holiday break. The return to in-person learning comes as the district reports some 170 cases so far this month. If that trend continues, the number could surpass the record-high 508 cases reported last August as the Delta variant hit the community.

Clarke County’s two major hospitals are sounding an alarm about the rise in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant. In a joint statement, officials from Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center and St. Mary’s Health Care System say that the two facilities have seen 100 to 200 percent increases in COVID-related hospitalizations in the past eight days.

Hospital officials say that most of those patients are unvaccinated.

The statement also addresses the worrying rise in the number of people going to the emergency room for testing, and encourages the public not to use hospital emergency departments for testing, and instead to visit primary care locations and mass testing sites to cut down on emergency room overcrowding.

As of early Thursday, St. Mary’s was on total diversion, while Piedmont Athens Regional was on medical diversion. In the public health region centered around Athens-Clarke County, about 88 percent of the region's inpatient beds were in use, along with about 89 percent of ICU beds.

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