AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Coronavirus numbers have indeed been increasing as more testing is made available. Positive cases are typically followed by people improving with little to no symptoms, sickness, some hospitalizations and in the worst case deaths.
As numbers soar, NewsChannel 6 wanted to know what the trend means.
We spoke with Augusta University’s Chief of Infectious Diseases Dr. Jose Vazquez about whether the numbers indicate that we reopened too fast. He explained we did not, but he blames two things: complacency and poor education.
“A good percentage of the population is not wearing a mask. A percentage of the population is not keeping the distance, until recently,” Dr. Vazquez said.
Even if you want to call it a spike, it’s not. Dr. Vazquez said we are still seeing numbers soar from Memorial Day when the country began to reopen and he said Fourth of July cases are also being reported now.
The issue, he told us, is people are gathering more in groups without protecting themselves and others by wearing masks and socially distancing. While he does not think we need another shutdown, he said he would close down bars.
“We don’t need the bars,” he explained adding that he has not been inside of one, even though he has eaten out. “The restaurants are OK at half [capacity] and outside dining.”
Cases in Georgia doubled in the past month and more than tripled in South Carolina during the same time. June 14 , Georgia saw 57,681 positive COVID cases while South Carolina saw 18,795. There were 2,451 and 600 deaths in Georgia and South Carolina then, respectively according to WJBF’s reporting of statewide numbers.
Fast forward to July 15, just after noon, Georgia had 123,963 positive COVID cases and 3,054 deaths and 60,220 cases in South Carolina with 984 deaths.
Richmond and Columbia Counties in the Peach State and Aiken and Saluda Counties in the Palmetto State all top the list with some of the highest cases now. Richmond County is the highest at 1830 cases, 62 deaths and 268 hospitalizations Wednesday afternoon. Columbia County is right behind at 980 cases, 12 deaths and 75 hospitalizations. Vazquez said Richmond County has always been higher due to the fact that there are more people living in the county near one another. He said people are more spread out in Columbia County.
Other CSRA hot spots on the Georgia side include Jefferson County with 229 cases, 2 deaths and 23 hospitalizations Wednesday, Burke County with 215 cases, 7 deaths and 37 hospitalizations and Washington County with 198 cases and 18 hospitalizations. McDuffie, Jenkins, Screven, and Wilkes Counties are also seeing triple digit cases on the same day and double digit hospitalizations as well as a handful of deaths.
On the South Carolina side, Aiken County reported 797 cases as of noon Wednesday and 12 deaths, Saluda County has 300 cases and 2 deaths, Bamberg County has 206 cases and 3 deaths. Other hot spots in the triple digits include Barnwell and Edgefield Counties and there are a small number of deaths reported in those places too.
Dr. Vazquez said he expects numbers to rise as people are now inside due to warmer temperatures. And he said while he does not have a crystal ball, he believes people might see some relief in August and September and maybe October. During this year’s influenza season, COVID will more than likely pick back up.
Dr. Vazquez added that ICU numbers are down. Half of the positive cases are there and the other half are hospitalized.
“Now is the time to re-educate the public as far as using masks in public places, washing your hands, keeping distancing. Probably most important than anything, if you feel sick, if you think you’re sick, don’t go out, don’t go to work, don’t go to the restaurant, stay home,” he said adding that he thinks the CSRA could benefit from Public Service Announcements done by local people reminding them of this.
Vazquez added he understands the controversy around whether COVID is airborne. But he said when you go places, distance yourself. He said we just have to learn to live with COVID-19. It will be here for another year.