Despite vaccine rollout, COVID-19 remains high for now, continue following CDC guidelines


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Until everyone receives a vaccine, people still have to follow CDC guidelines to stop the spread of the virus. Across the CSRA, coronavirus numbers remain high following holiday gatherings.

COVID-19 testing continues to rise too. Just to put this into perspective, we reported on this same story about two weeks ago. There were no cars waiting. Now, there are three lanes, no doubt to keep cars from spilling out onto 15th Street.

“Essentially, between 1 in 4 and 1 in 3 people we test are positive for COVID-19 right now,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Augusta University Health.

Coronavirus is at its highest peak right now in the two-state. Health officials report the increase in the spread of the virus comes from people gathering during Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year celebrations. Now, they say it’s time to flatten the curve.

“We need to consider these higher risk activities, particularly where you’re having to take your mask off,” Dr. Coule explained.

Dr. Coule told us the long lines we see at AU’s drive up COVID testing and other locations do come from the peak, but also from a shift in the focus of COVID care.

“As public health has transitioned away from doing testing to providing vaccinations, which is certainly the right move because we would rather prevent the disease in the first place rather than devote resources to testing for it, that has also shifted some demand of testing onto our health system as well as others,” he said.

And despite the vaccine rollout, people still need to follow CDC guidelines for COVID-19. Dr. Coule said only a small number of people in Phase 1A have received the first does. AU just reached the 8,000 mark. The VA and Georgia Department of Health are vaccinating people too, but he said at this point, those most at risk have not received the shot in the arm.

“We treat the first dose as if you’re not vaccinated at all. However, I will tell you it does give some degree of protection, but not for a couple of weeks after that initial dose of the vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Coule added AU just received approval for Open Point of Distribution, which includes everyone. But they are still awaiting the Department of Health to allocate additional vaccines. For now, it’s still important to mask up, wash your hands and stay socially distant.

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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