While the Georgia Department of Public Health is seeing an uptick in new Covid cases and hospitalizations related to Covid, the numbers remain relatively low, compared to the state’s peak in January 2022 or even summer Covid increases in previous years.
The increases DPH is currently seeing are likely a combination of a new Covid variant, people not prioritizing prevention measures, more summer travel and people at large gatherings, and some waning of immunity from vaccination or prior infection, according to a DPH District 4 news release Aug. 28.
The new variant, EG.5, which has been nicknamed “Eris,” is the dominant Covid variant spreading in the U.S. It is responsible for about 17 percent of new Covid cases in the country and about 16 percent of new cases in Georgia, DPH says.
Early data indicates Eris may be more easily transmissible than some other variants, but it does not appear to cause more severe disease. The CDC says the current Covid vaccine is effective against Eris, and Eris infections are picked up by Covid tests.
District 4 Public Health’s county health departments offer Covid vaccines, self-test kits, and PCR testing with no out-of-pocket costs to individuals. If a patient has insurance, the health department may bill the company for administrative costs related to the vaccine. District 4 includes Butts, Carroll, Coweta, Fayette, Heard, Henry, Lamar, Meriwether, Pike, Spalding, Troup and Upson counties.
To schedule an appointment for a Covid vaccine at any District 4 health department, visit www.district4health.org/make-an-appointment or call (800) 847-4262.
Vaccination remains the best protection against Covid and will help prevent serious complications and hospitalization if you do get sick, DPH says. In general, everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated for Covid. You can find specific information about vaccine recommendations by age at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/stay-up-to-date.html#everyone-6-and-older.
In addition to staying up to date on vaccinations, get tested for Covid if you have symptoms. Covid tests are widely available over the counter, and you may also pick up a free self-test kit at your local health department. County health departments also offer Covid PCR testing on specific days of the week; visit www.district4health.org/locations for information.
Henry and Lamar counties also have kiosks for 24/7 access to a PCR test kit. Kiosks are located at the Henry County Public Safety Annex, 108 S. Zack Hinton Parkway in McDonough, and also at the Lamar County Health Department, 100 Academy Drive in Barnesville.
There are several effective treatments for Covid, so contact your healthcare provider right away if you test positive. Treatment must be started within a few days after you first develop symptoms to be effective.
Basic prevention measures should be followed to help prevent further spread of Covid and mitigate outbreaks of infection — covering your coughs, sneezing into your elbow, throwing away used tissues, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, and staying home if you’re sick.
It is important to stay informed about Covid, but be sure you get your information from reliable sources such as District 4 at www.district4health.org, DPH at www.dph.georgia.gov/Covid-19, the CDC at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html, or your healthcare provider.
DPH will continue to closely monitor Covid data and provide updates as needed.