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New CDC guidelines expected following COVID briefing

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COVID-19 cases are flattening out since the last wave of infections. Clarke County had a 153 seven-day case rate per 100,000 people as of Feb. 16, with only 20 confirmed cases on that day according to the Department of Public Health. 

The percentage of residents who are fully vaccinated remains static at 48%. 

Public health officials are prudent to celebrate a flattened curve though federal guidance on things like masks may be changing soon. During a White House briefing on Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said national downward trends will influence relevant and updated guidelines in the weeks to come. 

“We want to give people a break from things like mask wearing when these metrics are better, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things worsen,” Walensky said. 

Vaccines and booster shots are “critical” in maintaining downward trends, said Dr. Anthony Fauci during the same meeting, especially when it comes to keeping hospitalizations low. Piedmont Athens Regional — though running at normal capacity — is at ICU and medical diversion status as of Thursday morning. There were 84 new COVID-related hospital admissions county wide as of Feb. 16. 

In the same meeting, Fauci also presented data that supports additional booster shots for the immunocompromised. 

While infection at Clarke County schools have gone down, the Clarke County School District reports 101 positive cases in the past 14 days and 33 in the past week. Parents, students and staff can take advantage of free testing this month and the next at rotating CCSD schools, with testing sites open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A full testing schedule can be found on the district website.