As the Omicron variant is expected to become the dominant strain of the coronavirus within the next several weeks, health officials in Georgia and across the country are pleading with those eligible to take the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots.
“Georgia has entered its fifth COVID surge,” said Dr. Amber Schmidtke, who tracks COVID trends in Georgia. She noted Georgia’s case count is headed toward a steep climb while only 50.4 percent of Georgia’s eligible population is fully vaccinated.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, last Friday, Dec. 17, a total of 3,094 new COVID cases were reported for the day, which is the highest number detected in months,
In September, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp warned of a winter surge, especially during the holidays, urging people to get vaccinated before the next COVID wave hits.
“During our summer surges, many Georgians saw first-hand how the delta variant spread more quickly and still led to the deaths of our fellow citizens. Given that our increase in cases and hospitalizations in 2021 were similar in timing to surges seen in 2020, we can only assume that a winter surge is also possible,” Kemp said. “I’m encouraging those who are unvaccinated to talk with their doctor or a trusted medical professional about getting vaccinated before whatever may come our way later this year or early 2022.”
Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey echoed Kemp’s sentiments.
“The single most important thing we can do as a state is get additional people vaccinated,” Toomey said.
But about half of Georgia’s eligible populations remain unvaccinated as COVID cases rise at a rapid pace in the Peach State. The World Health Organization estimates that the Omicron variant cases double every two to three days.
The World Health Organization says the omicron cases are doubling every two to three days.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, warned this week of the Omicron variant ripping through unvaccinated populations and could once again lead to more deaths and overwhelmed hospitals. Fauci said, “the real problem…we have so many people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not yet been vaccinated.”
“The one thing that’s very clear, and there’s no doubt about this, is its extraordinary capability of spreading, its transmissibility capability. It is just, you know, raging through the world, really,” Fauci said on NBC this week. “And if you look even here in the United States, you have some regions that start off with a few percent of the isolates that are positive, now going up to 30 percent, 40 percent, and some places 50 percent.”
Health officials are specifically worried about how large holiday parties and gatherings with friends and families will exacerbate the surge of COVID cases already underway. In addition to asking eligible people to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots, masks are recommended for large indoor gatherings and crowded settings such as planes, trains, and buses. Health experts also suggest getting tested for COVID before attending any holiday gatherings and to plan accordingly since testing lines are expected to be longer than usual this holiday season.