Ashley Deverell

Ashley Deverell

Cherokee County’s numbers of new cases of the coronavirus have stayed relatively low in the past week, after steadily dropping over the past few months.

Cherokee was averaging 29.1 new confirmed cases a day as of Friday, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. That’s slightly up from last Friday’s 26.3 cases a day, but still significantly lower than the beginning of April, when it was 42.1, or in February when cases bumped up to a 90.9 a day average.

That decline is happening as more people are getting COVID-19 vaccines. Cherokee County had 43,011 residents fully vaccinated as of Friday, about 17% of the population, according to Georgia DPH. That’s up from 37,110 last week. About 22% of Cherokee residents, or 57,060, had gotten at least one dose of vaccine as of Friday.

Georgia DPH reports 100% of residents over 75 in Cherokee County have gotten at least one dose of vaccine, based on the US Census Bureau’s 5-year American Community Survey. The latest survey data available is from 2019.

Of Cherokee’s residents ages 65-74, 74.2% have had at least one vaccine dose, according to Georgia DPH. In the 55-64 age group, that number is 37.5%, followed by 20.5% of the 45-54 group, 16.2% of the 35-44 group, 13.7% of the 25-34 group, 11.4% of the 20-24 group and 3.5% of the 15-19 group.

Public health officials are not ruling out another bump in new cases, however, according to an expert at the North Georgia Health District, which includes Cherokee County.

“I would say we are cautiously optimistic right now,” North Georgia Health District immunization coordinator Ashley Deverell said in an email. “Our case numbers have dropped over the last month as more residents have accessed vaccination. We are watching the data daily to see if the recent spring break holiday causes an increase in cases.”

In all, Cherokee County has reported 22,034 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, per the state data. Of those, 1,244 people have been hospitalized and there have been 297 confirmed deaths from the virus.

People who are becoming vaccinated seem to be protected against the circulating variants, Deverell said.

“What is concerning is that the decreased case counts may create a false sense of security. The new variants spread quickly from person to person especially among younger populations coupled with vaccine hesitancy, this could cause rates to spike again,” she said.

Deverell said Cherokee County has “a long way to go” before it reaches herd immunity.

“We would likely need to triple the number of residents vaccinated to reach 70% of the eligible population vaccinated. This week, we have noticed that appointments are not filling up completely which is concerning given the amount of residents needed to get closer to herd immunity,” she said.

For the Georgia DPH’s full COVID-19 report, visit dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report. For more about vaccinations in Georgia, visit bit.ly/3spDbqE.

National data can be found at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at cdc.gov.

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Shannon Ballew is the managing editor at the Cherokee Tribune and the Cherokee Ledger-News. She is a graduate of Young Harris College and lives in unincorporated Woodstock.

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