Thursday, August 24, 2023–10:52 a.m.
-David Crowder, WRGA News-
In recent weeks, we have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases as the virus continues to mutate.
Nationally, there are about 12,000 people being hospitalized per week with COVID-19. We are also seeing an increase in hospitalizations statewide and locally, according to Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the 10-county Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest District. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says that Floyd, Gordon, Polk, and Bartow Counties are now classified as having a medium rate for hospitalizations based on population. Most of those being hospitalized are over the age of 70.
“Hospitalizations have almost nearly doubled in the last couple of weeks,” Dr. Voccio said. “Unfortunately, we have had a couple of deaths recently from COVID.”
According to Dr. Voccio, the current variant is the Omicron EG. 5. The reason why we see new variants is the spike protein changes very rapidly
“The spoke protein changes very rapidly with this and its survival of the fittest,” he said. “The virus that has the spike protein that we don’t have a good immune response to spreads rapidly from person to person. Then we develop an immune response that fights the virus off, for the most part.”
Because the COVID or SARS-CoV-2 virus changes rapidly, Dr. Voccio believes that we’re going to have to live with it just like we do with the flu.
“We just have to recommend people getting their flu shots, COVID vaccines, and also Respiratory Syncytial Virus vaccine for eligible patients,” he said. “Talk to your healthcare provider to see if you are a candidate for the RSV vaccine.”
The COVID-19 vaccine is expected to be out in the next month or so.
“That is going to be the XBB.15 variant vaccine,” Dr. Voccio said. “We hope that it will take care of the EG.5 virus that we are seeing now. Hopefully, we will see this vaccine take care of the newer variants and this current variant, but we do not know.”
Dr. Voccio added that the public can get free home antigen COVID tests through the health departments in Northwest Georgia. There is also a kiosk at the AdventHealth Gordon campus in Calhoun where you can get a test kit. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, flu test kits will also be available at the kiosk.
Dr. Voccio was a guest on Thursday’s First News with Tony McIntosh.