The Standard Journal

Polk hits all-time high in COVID-19 cases

- By Jeremy Stewart JStewart@PolkStanda­ Rome News-Tribune staff writer Olivia Morley contribute­d to this report.

Local hospitaliz­ations and cases have climbed to equal or above previous numbers thanks to the continuing spread of COVID-19, mostly due to the highly infectious Delta variant that has swept across the country.

Rome hospitals swept past previous records on Tuesday with 203 people hospitaliz­ed with serious cases of COVID-19 in the largest surge seen since the beginning of the pandemic. That number shot up to 221 by Friday.

Most Polk County residents in need of medical help because of COVIDrelat­ed illness are transporte­d to the city’s Floyd Medical Center or Redmond Regional Hospital.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, Polk County had 100 new confirmed cases reported on both Aug. 28 and Sept. 3. The totals mark the largest single-day increases in COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.

The effects of the surge in cases has forced some city government­s to close their city halls as staff have tested positive for the virus and have been quarantine­d at home.

Cedartown City Manager Edward Guzman reported Sept. 7 that the city would close city hall through Sept. 13 as they are short-staffed due to exposure to COVID-19. Aragon announced on Aug. 26 that it was closing its city hall through Sept. 7 for deep cleaning after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19.

Another trend doctors have warned about appears to have begun in Polk County as well as four residents died from COVID-related illness last week and nine since the beginning of September.

In the Northwest Georgia region the average positivity rate is about 25%, according to Department of Public Health district director Dr. Gary Voccio. Public health experts have said a 5% to 10% positivity rate indicates that enough testing is being done to accurately determine the spread of a virus.

The positivity rate in Polk County was at 31.9% as of Friday’s daily COVID-19 report by the DPH.

“We’re averaging anywhere from 25 to 40 percent positivity rate in the region,” Voccio said. “Those numbers are extraordin­arily high and it’s very disappoint­ing. With numbers that high, your hospitals are going to be full.”

With football season in full swing and holidays around the corner, Voccio said he doesn’t see cases declining anytime soon.

“I suspect we’ll see even higher numbers over the course of the next week or two because of the holiday we recently had,” he said. “Georgia’s also a football state and with college and high school football, it’s going to lend itself to even worse numbers.”

Voccio said he also finds the recent rise in the number of young people requiring hospitaliz­ation very troubling.

“The numbers are now almost equal between younger people getting sick and the elderly population,” Voccio said. “And unfortunat­ely, we’ve had some recent deaths of young people and that’s why it’s so pertinent to get vaccinated.”

Data from the DPH shows the Delta variant is different from past versions of the virus. Mostly, it is much more contagious.

The agency reports that some vaccinated people can get Delta in a breakthrou­gh infection and may be contagious. Even so, vaccinated individual­s represent a very small amount of transmissi­on occurring around the country.

It goes on to say virtually all hospitaliz­ations and deaths continue to be among those who are unvaccinat­ed.

As of 1 p.m. Friday, the Georgia DPH Vaccine Dashboard reported 32% of Polk County residents have been fully vaccinated and 38% have had at least one dose. That’s a slight uptick since the beginning of August.

In promising news, Polk School District has seen a slight decrease in the number of positive COVID cases in the last week.

After reporting 151 cases over a 10-day period ending Aug. 27, which equals 1.76% of the entire PSD population, the district reported 99 cases over a 10-day period ending Friday, bringing the percentage down to 1.15% for the system.

The district put guidance in place last month for any school that has more than 1% of its population — which includes students, faculty and staff. That includes safety measures such as structured hallway transition­s, no water fountains, limited visitors, and eating meals in classrooms.

That list included six as of Friday’s report, with the largest percentage at Van Wert Elementary in Rockmart with 12 cases, or 1.63% of the school’s population.

 ??  ?? Dr. Gary Voccio
Dr. Gary Voccio

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