Northside Hospital Cherokee is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations as cases rise in the community, though those numbers have not risen to what they were in the last surge in the winter, according to a physician there.
Dr. Spencer Lee, who works in the hospital’s pulmonary critical care department, said some of the hospital patients could have the Delta variant, which Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say is now the dominant strain in the U.S. But the hospital could not confirm that, because it can’t test for the specific variant.
Cherokee County reported 27 hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients in seven days as of Thursday, a 107.69% increase from the previous week, according to the CDC.
Cherokee is among many Georgia counties considered to have "high" community transmission, per CDC guidelines.
Cherokee County saw 239 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the seven days ending Friday, a 77% increase from the 135 reported the week before, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Cherokee was averaging 34.1 new confirmed cases a day Friday, compared to 19.3 a week before. No COVID-19 deaths were reported in Cherokee in the seven days ending Friday; the last COVID-related death was reported on July 23.
Cherokee County was reporting 140 cases of COVID-19 infections per 100,000 people over the past two weeks.
Of those tested for the coronavirus in Cherokee County, an average of 12.1% were testing positive Friday, compared to 7% a week before and 2.5% June 30.
The Delta variant accounts for 78% of new COVID cases in Georgia, according to the CDC. It’s estimated to spread more than twice as easily from one person to another, compared with earlier strains. The highest spread of cases and severe outcomes are happening in places with low vaccination rates, according to Georgia DPH. According to the state Department of Public Health,“virtually all” COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among the unvaccinated.
Vaccination against the coronavirus is “more urgent than ever,” state public health agency officials said Friday.
“Unfortunately, we can expect COVID numbers to keep growing. People who are unvaccinated or skip their second dose of vaccine are targets for infection,” Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health Kathleen Toomey said in a news release. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the delta variant. High vaccination coverage will reduce spread of the virus in your community and elsewhere — and help prevent new variants from emerging.”
Lee also encouraged residents to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I strongly recommend people get vaccinated,” Lee said, adding that people should take proper safety measures including wearing a mask and social distancing.
As of Friday, 42% of Cherokee County residents, or 102,817 people, were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to state data. At least 45%, or 112,402 people, had received at least one vaccine dose. Statewide, 40% of residents, or 4.1 million people, were fully vaccinated, and nationally that figure is 49.5% of the population, or 164.1 million, according to the Georgia DPH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those interested in getting a COVID-19 vaccine can sign up through the Georgia Department of Public Health and at private providers. Vaccines are also available at the Cherokee County Health Department facilities on Univeter Road in Canton and Main Street in Woodstock.
As of Friday, Cherokee County had a total of 23,363 confirmed coronavirus cases reported since the pandemic began, according to the Georgia DPH. Of those, 1,435 had been hospitalized with the virus and 320 had died.