By Tia Lynn Ivey
Morgan County’s official coronavirus case count topped 1,000 cumulatively since the pandemic broke out in March 2020. Across the state of Georgia, a rapid spike of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are unfolding while a new, and possibly deadlier, mutant-strain of the virus has been detected in the Peach State, prompting health officials to warn of a possible “super-spreader” situation that could lead to overcrowding at Georgia hospitals.
As of press time on Tuesday, Feb. 2, the Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) reported a total 1,030 cases in Morgan County since the beginning of the pandemic. Since Jan. 14, Morgan County has added more than 110 new coronavirus cases. Since the pandemic began, nine Morgan County citizens have died from COVID-19 and 64 Morgan County citizens have been hospitalized for it. Georgia as a whole has reported a total of 752,448 cases, 12,613 deaths, and 50,323 hospitalizations.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the GDPH has confirmed 19 people living in nine Georgia counties have been infected with the U.K. strain of the coronavirus, “with cases concentrated in the state’s core metropolitan counties and extending to the Alabama border.” State health officials believe the actual case count for the new strain to be significantly higher than currently known.
“Known as B.1.1.7, the new strain is believed to be far more contagious than the common SARS-CoV-2 virus and, according to British researchers, may also be 30 percent to 40 percent more deadly,” reported Johnny Edwards and Yamil Berard, investigative journalists for the AJC. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the U.K. strain is expected to become dominant in America by March 2021.
According to the GDPH, “The B.1.1.7 cases in Georgia are in individuals ages 15 to 61, eight males and 11 females. The cases live in metro Atlanta – Carroll, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Paulding counties. DPH is working to identify close contacts of the individuals, and will monitor them closely.”
Health officials are sounding the alarm for citizens to wear masks, practice social distancing, frequently wash their hands, and to get vaccinated as quickly as possible to build up the population’s immunity before the various mutations of the virus spread drastically and diminish the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines.
“Both Pfizer and Moderna say their current vaccines appear to work against this variant,” according to the GDPH.
“The CDC has said this U.K. variant is likely to be the dominant strain in the U.S. by sometime in March,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., commissioner, Georgia Department of Public Health. “We must ensure we are taking every precaution right now to prevent transmission of COVID and to avoid a surge in hospitalizations and loss of life.”
According to the GDPH, “The same measures used to prevent spread of COVID-19 in Georgia are no different for this variant, and are even more critical due to the U.K. variant being more contagious. Wear a mask. Maintain social distance. Wash your hands frequently. Avoid large gatherings. Get a COVID vaccination when you are eligible. Follow the guidance of Public Health and the guidelines in the Governor’s executive order.”