How is SWGA battling the omicron variant?
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Only three of the 152 counties in Georgia are above the national average for vaccinations, which is 62%. The vast majority of Georgia counties are below 50%.
Health officials are concerned because of how fast the omicron variant spreads.
Health experts believe omicron has caused at least 75% of cases nationwide.
Southeast Health District Director Dr. Charles Ruis said this new surge could be the wake-up call many Georgians need to change their minds about the vaccine and to change their habits.
“We know we have it in Georgia. We believe we have it in Southwest Georgia. The numbers of new cases are increasing in all of the 14 counties in Southwest Georgia,” Ruis said.
Ruis said it’s unlikely that anyone’s behavior is directly responsible for the new variant. But he also feels new variants like omicron – or worse – could continue to crop up. That’s why Ruis pointed out, it’s time for everyone to step up and respond.
“Now is the time to resume efforts to distance, wear masks, keep hands clean, stay home when sick, and get vaccinated,” Ruis said.
Nearly half of all Georgians still are not fully vaccinated. Ruis said one reason people have been hesitant is that they didn’t trust how quickly vaccines were approved. They want more evidence. Ruis said there is plenty of evidence in COVID statistics. Ruis said roughly 95% of all COVID-related deaths are unvaccinated patients.
Health experts said that’s reason enough to get vaccinated.
“That’s good evidence that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks. The vaccines are not mandated, so we’re trying to make sure people are educated,” Ruis said. “We’re hoping people who are not vaccinated will keep an open mind and get vaccinated for the good of the community.”
Health experts say so much is still unknown about the virus. The pharmaceutical industry is racing to develop more treatments and Ruis said he feels more will be available in the next few weeks
“There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future. We need to do our part to control the disease as much as we can until we can get to the point where we see the end to this pandemic,” Ruis said.
Recently, the FDA authorized the nation’s first anti-COVID-19 pill. Ruis said at first, the pill will primarily go to the most vulnerable. He added he feels this treatment should start before symptoms develop.
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