COVID cases surge during the Labor Day holiday

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 11:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Even with the vaccine available, COVID cases continue to surge across the country and right here in the Chattahoochee Valley this Labor Day, which marks the unofficial end to summer. Health experts say this is in large part due to the highly contagious Delta variant, which began spreading here during the middle of summer in July.

As of Friday heading into the Labor Day holiday weekend, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported Muscogee County had more than 1,300 COVID cases in the past two weeks. That’s an increase from the 177 COVID cases reported for the two weeks before Memorial Day this year.

“I don’t think that Labor Day is going to make much of a difference because we’re already seeing increases of cases. I don’t think it could possibly get any worse, I hope,” said Pamela Kirkland with the Columbus Health Department.

East Alabama is also experiencing a spike in COVID cases.

“It’s a little disheartening to know we’re almost back at square one really,” said John Atkinson with East Alabama Medical Center in Opelika.

During the peak at the beginning of the year, Atkinson says they had 43 COVID deaths in January and 30 in February.

“With the rollout of the vaccines, the variant that was in place at the time was not as contagious or as deadly apparently as the Delta variant so between March and July, things kind of really slowed down,” he explained.

During the span of those five months, Atkinson says they had 28 people die from COVID at the hospital. But from August first through Friday, September 3rd, Atkinson says they had 26 COVID related deaths.

“I know some people look at that they’re like well, you know, the vaccine is not working and my answer to that is the vaccine is working because those who are vaccinated are less likely to be hospitalized, but if they do become hospitalized they’re less likely to get in the ICU and to get on the ventilator,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson says they’ve seen COVID cases and deaths across the board from people in their 30s through their 80s. He says some of the hospitalization cases are vaccinated patients who got their vaccines early when they first rolled out because they’re older and immunocompromised.

“They don’t necessarily have the same immune response to the vaccine as somebody younger and healthier and so they’re discovering over time that that’s why they’re bringing out the booster shots at this point,” explained Atkinson.

There are more people vaccinated now than in March when COVID slowed down, but Atkinson says it’s not an exponential number.

“Each of our area counties went up five percentage points from like 32 to 37% fully vaccinated. That’s not, that’s not going to make it. I mean we’ve got to have these numbers going up in increments of five and 10% to really make a difference,” he said.

On Tuesday, Sept. 7 at noon, the Alabama Hospital Association is holding a statewide moment of silence to remember the more than 12,000 Alabamians who have died from COVID-19. They are encouraging Alabamians to participate from wherever they are and also remember those who currently have COVID, affected families and healthcare workers.

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