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Health officials urge caution as students return from holiday break

(Source: WTOC)
Published: Jan. 4, 2022 at 7:20 AM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Thousands of students in the Savannah-Chatham County School System will head back to the classroom Tuesday, but with an increase in COVID-19 cases, including in kids, health experts are urging caution.

At Pediatric Associates of Savannah, Dr. Ben Spitalnick says they have been busy with kids testing positive for Covid. On Christmas Day, they had more positive tests than ever before.

The seven-day rolling average has jumped up the last few days to 220 cases, which is still down from the highest peak Chatham County ever had with 302 cases back in late August.

The Community Transmission Index (CTI) has also jumped from 111 a few weeks ago to 639. CTI shows the number of newly confirmed cases in the last 14 days per 100,000 residents.

Dr. Stephen Thacker with Memorial Health says the numbers could be from Omicron, the Thanksgiving holiday spike, and also people letting their guard down. He is encouraging everyone to be a part of the solution in ending Covid in our community.

“I think we all want to be on the other side of this pandemic. I still think there is a bit more time before we can say that confidently, that I think many individuals have started to drift away from some of the public health guidance that we know helps keep you healthy, keep those around you healthy, and keep your community well,” Dr. Thacker said.

Thacker is urging masks for everyone and vaccinations for anyone five and older. He is expecting numbers to continue to rise in the coming weeks because historically, we see an increase in cases two weeks after a super spreader event like a holiday, so these current numbers are not reflecting the holiday increase yet it is expected to get worse before it gets better.

And with students returning to the classroom, some of them will soon have the option to get a COVID-19 booster shot. The FDA approved the booster shot for kids age 12-15 and also immunocompromised children five to 11 years of age.

In the same announcement, the FDA also approved to shorten the time after the final shot of Pfizer to get the booster from six months to five months, which would apply to everyone 12 and older.

Millions of kids could be impacted by this update, and local health experts anticipate the CDC will follow up with their approval sometime this week to start getting booster shots to kids.

Dr. Thacker says he expected this announcement and thinks it will make a big impact for the kids returning to school after the holiday break.

“This is a good percentage of our population that has access to the vaccine. Uptake has not been where I think it should be for the age range but what this allows us to do is to even better protect those kids who have already received their full dose series so that we can keep them healthy and well and keep them in person for school, which I think is really the shared goal across the board,” said Thacker.

Dr. Thacker says continued research shows just how important booster shots are with the current Omicron variant, so this is a big step in helping protect kids, especially since we are seeing higher pediatric hospitalizations with this latest surge.

Georgia Department of Public Health Daily Status Report

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