AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Local experts report sporadic COVID activity in the Peach State and that’s the case for the entire CSRA, based on CDC numbers.

COVID may appear to be back. But experts at Augusta University say it never left. And now, we are seeing subvariants.

“It’s almost behaving like a different virus. It’s out there, but it’s not making folks as sick,” said Dr. Rodger Mac Arthur, MCG at Augusta University Professor of Medicine.

Sore throat. Mild fever. That’s about the most some people who encounter this latest strain of COVID might experience. Dr. MacArthur told NewsChannel 6 that the virus, which first presented itself in the United States in early 2020, never went away.

“We’re seeing an increase in cases for sure, but in students and others,” he explained. “We’re seeing a few patients that have to get admitted to the hospital, but not too many. Right now, across the state of Georgia, there are about 200 people in the hospital with COVID. Most of the activity right now in Georgia is in the Savannah area.”

The CDC tracks COVID through hospitalizations and deaths and both started slightly increasing in July in Georgia and South Carolina.

Doctors Hospital released this statement:

“Our COVID numbers remain very low. We encourage the community to continue to practice standard hygiene precautions to prevent the spread of COVID, flu and RSV, including washing your hands, covering your cough, and staying home if you are sick.”

Doctors Hospital Spokeswoman Lindsay Black

Now, the government is offering free at home COVID tests, a move that makes tracking cases through the local health department impossible. MacArthur said there’s a newly approved vaccine too using the same technology as before. While it should protect against subvariants, the issue, he said, is that it has not been widely tested and this shot is not free.

“The government is no longer paying for it,” Dr. MacArthur explained. “Companies have decided to charge $100 for it. Some insurance companies pay for it. Others do not.”

Dr. MacArthur added it’s smart to go ahead and get the flu vaccine and the RSV vaccine if you decide to wait on your COVID vaccination.