Coastal Health District director concerned with COVID variants

Coastal Health District director concerned with COVID variants

CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - COVID-19 cases remain steady in Chatham County, and while we haven’t seen a significant increase in cases, we also have not had a significant drop of cases either.

Coastal Health District Director Dr. Lawton Davis says there are a lot of factors to keep in mind right now. Cases of COVID-19 remain in a plateau in Chatham County, but Dr. Davis told Chatham County Commission on Friday his concern is on the variants.

“Roughly 42-45 percent of our cases are one of the variant strains. The predominant being the UK strain. To put that in perspective, two-three weeks ago we were maybe a month ago we were at about 3-4 percent,” Dr. Davis said.

He says this strain is more contagious and poses a threat we must be cautious about. Especially as vaccine demand has died off. He says in Chatham County, estimates show about 25 percent of the total population have received a at least one dose of the vaccine.

“The good news in there is that if you look at our population 65 and older, we’re relatively 80 percent vaccinated. Which is very, very good. Unfortunately, less than 8 percent of those aged 20-24 have had at least one dose and probably 11-12 percent of those aged 25-35 and these are the age ranges where the most cases occur,” Dr. Davis said.

Despite hearing that, Commissioner Dean Kicklighter expressed his desire for the county to get rid of the mask mandate because the vaccine is available.

“I believe that they can choose not to take it and they can walk around with a mask on for the rest of their lives if they so choose or they can choose not to wear their mask and get the virus. It would be their choice. I believe government needs to step back out of people’s lives and quit telling people what to do,” Commissioner Kicklighter said.

Chatham County’s mask mandate is still in effect until April 30. The chairman says they followed the experts’ advice on this.

“Right now, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re not out of the woods yet so it is important for citizens to continue to wear their masks to help to protect each other,” Chatham County Commission Chairman Chester Ellis said.

Despite Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine being on pause, Dr. Davis says there is still plenty of supply for the other vaccines. He says the county health department only gave about two-thirds what they did last week, and hopes people will sign up for their vaccination so we can see further progress in our community.

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