In Chatham and neighboring counties, COVID-19 statistics are looking good. The number of hospital admissions and new cases every day has fallen to the level last seen around a year ago. Everyone is currently under 20.
But it’s too early to say the pandemic is over, said Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Georgia Coastal Health District with eight counties.
“As I’ve said many times, statistics are like a lamppost, good for assistance but not necessarily for lighting,” Davis wrote in an email. “If you look at our local Community Transmission Index, 7-day moving average, positive test percentage and hospital admissions, the signs are good and we are on a decline in COVID-19. If you look at the vaccine count Residents focus, there is “cause for concern.”
For example, in Chatham County, 32% of residents are fully vaccinated. In Bryan it is 30% and in Effingham only 23%. Georgia as a whole reports 34% fully vaccinated. A person is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a series of 2 doses, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccination.
People aged 12 and over are entitled to vaccinations, which are generally available and always free of charge for the recipient.
“We need to ramp that number much higher if we really want to achieve community (or herd) immunity,” said Davis. “Are we on the right track? Absolutely. Can we declare complete victory? No.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that researchers “are yet to learn how many people need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the population can be considered protected”. That number depends on a disease’s infectiousness, with measles being 95% and polio 80%, according to the American Academy of Medical Colleges. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, previously put the estimate for COVID-19 at 70% to 85% of the population who are vaccinated or immune to achieve herd immunity.
“Until enough people are protected, either through vaccinations or by purchasing antibodies, COVID-19 will remain a cause for concern,” said Davis.
COVID-19 variants continue to emerge, such as the more contagious Delta variant, which was first identified in India and has spread to 62 countries.
“As we want to put the pandemic in the rearview mirror, we need to stay vigilant,” said Davis. “You just have to look at a few other countries facing devastating outbreaks to see that new increases can and likely will occur. I can’t say it enough: please get vaccinated if you haven’t already done this thing. “
With COVID statistics declining, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson did not renew the city’s masking mandate after May 31st. Instead, he urged residents and visitors to keep wearing masks. And to get vaccinated.
“We hope to move to a place where more people will be vaccinated, which is why you keep hearing me speak about it,” he said in his weekly address on Tuesday.
Vaccinated people, in most cases, do not need to wear a mask or stay 6 feet away and can go back to doing all the things they did before the pandemic, Davis said. But vaccines are not “bulletproof force protection,” he said.
“Please continue to use common sense and take precautions if you are involved in activities or environments with potentially high risk (e.g., crowded indoor spaces with other people with unknown vaccination status).”
This applies twice to the majority of unvaccinated residents.
“The downside of this is that people who are not vaccinated – either voluntarily or because the vaccine has not yet been approved for certain age groups – still need to take precautions, including wearing masks and social distancing,” he said. “This is especially important when unvaccinated people are around others with unknown vaccination status.”
Mary Landers is an environmental and health reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Contact them at 912-655-8295. Twitter: @MaryLandersSMN