Dr. Janet Memark, District Health Director for Cobb & Douglas Public Health distributed one of her periodic messages on the status of the COVID pandemic to the community on Friday.
Some highlights of the message are that while we seem to be moving off the peak of Omicron, deaths have increased significantly and that vaccination and booster shots are a way of greatly decreasing your chances of dying from the disease.
Here is her statement:
Good afternoon Cobb and Douglas Counties.Advertisement
Although we are all excited to be off of the peak of the Omicron surge, the descent has been a bit slow with Cobb County plateauing at about 1,697 cases /100,000 and Douglas at 1,492/100,000 for the two-week case rate. Remember that we would like to be under 100/100,000 for this two-week case rate, so we are still at very high levels of community transmission. This transmission is further supported by PCR positivity rates, which are at 24.4% and 26.3% for each county respectively. Those should be under 5% to indicate low transmission.
Our area hospitals show some improvement in their COVID-19 hospitalizations, but still have many patients admitted and have busy to severe capacity throughout. On our county call this morning, hospital officials warned that they continue to see more unvaccinated people who are still being hospitalized than vaccinated people for COVID-19. Confirmed COVID deaths are significantly increasing (by more than 110% over the last 14 days) This is consistent with lagging indicators that follow case increases by several weeks.
When analyzing our COVID-19 data in Cobb and Douglas Counties from the last year, we found that 25% of cases reported to us over the last year were breakthrough cases. That may not come as a surprise because we have learned more and more about Omicron’s ability to evade some vaccine immunity combined with suggestions that immunity from vaccination may be waning after a period of time. When we dive deeper into the deaths that occurred in Cobb and Douglas, we found that 11% of the deaths occurred in people who had received the 1 dose or 2 dose series of their vaccines and 0.4% of deaths occurred in people who had received their booster shots. Once again, data in our own community shows the efficacy of these vaccines against death. We only have 24% of our community in Cobb and 17% in Douglas County that currently have their booster shots. Please go out and get them. You are eligible if you are 12 and over.
Recently, the Biden administration opened its website to order free COVID-19 home tests. Each household can get 4 tests. Please go to www.covidtests.gov to order your tests to be delivered to your home. It is super easy. You can also get up to 8 tests per month through your insurance company, but you will be reimbursed $12 per test and Medicaid and Medicare will not cover them. You can learn more about self-testing at the CDC link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/self-testing.html.
Some of you may be wondering about the new variant that has mutated from Omicron or B.A.2, as it is called. What we know about this variant is that it has been found in 40 countries, including the United States. The World Health Organization has described it as a variant of interest at this point and is watching it very closely. It is suspected to be very contagious but has not been proven to be more severe clinically than the original Omicron. That being said, it hasn’t been shown to be less severe either. It has 20 more mutations from the original Omicron, which leads to speculation that there may be some effects upon therapeutics and immunity. It is thought that vaccine efficacy will be similar to the original Omicron, but it is still being studied.
We knew that COVID-19 wouldn’t go away altogether, but would continue to change and try to mutate against us. Many of us have survived the 5th wave of this pandemic, and it is being shown that one of our greatest weapons is vaccinations. I urge you all to make sure you are vaccinated and get your booster shot if you are 12 or over. I also encourage everyone to continue practicing the 3 W’s. Wash your hands, Watch your distance and Wear a well-fitted mask when in public. For more information on types of masks that are recommended by the CDC, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html.
I hope that the numbers and hospitalizations continue to trend downward and we have better times ahead of us with better weather. Please take care and stay safe.
Janet Pak Memark M.D., M.P.H, F.A.C.P.
District Health Director
District 3-1: Cobb & Douglas Public Health