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Local COVID-19 cases rise again as health officials encourage vaccinations



AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s something we haven’t seen in a while: COVID-19 cases going up across our area.

Hospitalizations are up at both AU Health and University Hospital, and our local health officials say they’re starting to get concerned.

AU Health says they’re seeing many cases of the UK variant and it’s putting younger people in the hospital. The plateau in cases is now a rise in cases.

“It is a definite increase in the number of cases. We are also seeing it’s not affecting the same type of patients,” said Dr. Phillip Coule, AU’s Chief Medical Officer.

Dr. Coule says the culprit, the UK variant, is much easier to give to someone else.

“In many cases, these are younger patients that are ending up critically ill,” he explained.

It’s a disturbing trend as hospitalizations at AU have gone up. At University, there are 17 patients with the UK variant, which is up from the number 10 weeks ago.

“It’s the most common variant. It’s essentially running head to head with what we would call the ‘wild type,” said Coule.

The wild type is the original COVID-19 strain. At AU Health, the positivity rate is up to seven or eight percent. And at MedNow Urgent Care, it’s up to five percent. B

But Dr. Mark Newton of MedNow thinks it’s because of so many people in from out of town.

“Everybody is tired of wearing masks. Everyone is tired of social distancing, which is why it’s so important for people to get vaccinated,” he said. Which is not going as well as many health officials had hoped.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of people who remain vaccine-hesitant,” said Newton. “We are very much dependent on vaccination to prevent a major, or another fourth wave of this.”

Hesitancy, Dr. Coule says, is just opening the door for the pandemic to continue.

Health officials are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated. Even if you are young or healthy it’s the only way to end this pandemic for good.

University Hospital is doing a Moderna clinic on April 20 and a Pfizer clinic on April 29.