Health experts warn Georgians not to cause a Labor Day coronavirus spike

Health experts across the state are warning Georgians to practice social distancing even during the Labor Day holiday.

Officials fear a spike in coronavirus cases like the state saw after the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends.

Northeast Georgia Health System is encouraging residents to be more vigilant about avoiding crowds as we enter the Labor Day weekend, after Hall County and the surrounding region saw COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations jump to record levels following the Fourth of July weekend.

“When you look at the objective data, there’s no doubt that our community got a little too relaxed as we celebrated Independence Day – and the resulting increase in COVID activity put people’s lives in danger and placed tremendous strain on our healthcare workers,” says John Delzell, MD, MSPH, one of NGHS’ COVID-19 Incident Commanders with a background in Public Health. “Please celebrate Labor Day safely and help stop the spread by avoiding large parties, wearing your mask around others, watching your distance and washing your hands.”

The health system’s 7-day average of positive COVID tests hovered between 5 to 10% in May and June. Those levels were in line with the state average and the World Health Organization’s recommendation that the positive rate should remain at 5% or lower for 14 days before communities fully reopen all services. On July 4, though, the rate jumped to 11.5% – then it leapt to a record 28% by July 16.

According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid large gatherings, even those held outdoors. People who do not know they are infected can still spread COVID-19 to others who then continue the spread by infecting their household or their community. The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.

The department also wants Georgians to remember that face coverings or masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Face coverings prevent the droplets produced by talking, coughing, or sneezing from leaving one person and infecting another. Wearing a face covering or mask is about protecting your neighbors, friends, relatives and other members of your community, especially those at high-risk. Face coverings and social distancing together provide the best protection for you and those around you, the department said in a statement.

In recent weeks, the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have decreased in Georgia.

Health officials are hoping that by following the Four Things for Fall prevention measures, the downward trends can continue and we won’t see a surge of new infections like those that followed Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.

Photo: A banner greeted visitors passing through the toll plaza on the way to Jekyll Island over Memorial Day weekend with the coronavirus-era message: “We’re all in this together.” Many visitors to Georgia beaches during the holiday ignored COVID-19 safety guidelines. Wes Wolfe/Georgia Recorder

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