Memark advises caution as COVID transmission continues to rise

·3 min read

Jul. 8—Cobb County's top public health official on Friday advised residents to be cautious in light of rising COVID-19 transmission in the county.

Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently upgraded both counties under her purview to a "high" community transmission level.

To classify an area's transmission level, the CDC takes into account the number of COVID-19 hospital admissions per 100,000 people, the percentage of hospital beds occupied by COVID patients, and the number of COVID cases per 100,000 people.

Memark said that a "slow and steady rise" in COVID hospitalizations in recent months was attributable to BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5, all subvariants of the omicron variant.

"Please remember that when we enter High transmission, it is recommended that we wear masks in public spaces, get tested if experiencing symptoms, and stay up-to-date on vaccines," Memark wrote.

Data from the Georgia Geospatial Information Office shows that Region N, which includes Cobb, Douglas, Paulding and Cherokee counties, had 135 hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Friday. The number of patients peaked in January, at more than 600, before declining until it hit a low of about 25 in late April. Since then, the number has steadily increased again.

As of Wednesday, the latest day for which data is available, Cobb was averaging about 185 COVID cases per day, up from about 30 cases per day three months ago, according to state Department of Public Health data. During the height of the omicron wave last winter, cases reached a much higher rate, of more than 1,300 per day. At the height of another wave, in August and September of last year, cases were above 450 per day.

The rate of COVID tests coming back positive in Cobb broke the 20% threshold in late June for the first time since February, and has hovered between 20-25% since then. In periods of low transmission, positivity has been below 3%. The current spike in positivity is second only to the omicron wave last winter, when the rate reached 35%.

Memark urged residents to stay up to date on their vaccinations. Vaccines are now available for everyone older than 6 months. A booster shot after the initial vaccine series is recommended for everyone 5 years and older. A second booster is recommended for people 50 years and older, and for people 12 years and older who are immunocompromised.

CDPH is offering free vaccinations for children ages 6 months through 5 years old. Moderna is being offered at the Marietta and Douglas locations and Pfizer is being offered at the Marietta location. No appointment is necessary. Visit the locations page or call 770-514-2300 for details.

Memark also highlighted the federal Test to Treat program, whereby people can receive free medication to treat COVID.

"If you are 12 years and older, have mild to moderate symptoms, and are at high risk of progressing to severe COVID disease, you may be eligible for one of the outpatient treatment medications available by prescription from your physician or at one of the Test to Treat locations," Memark wrote. "Keep in mind that you need to be treated within five days of the onset of symptoms."

For more information on the program, visit aspr.hhs.gov/TestToTreat/Pages/default.aspx.

"We will continue to monitor the situation and ask for everyone to make sure you are up-to-date on your vaccines and to please take a few extra precautions until cases come down," Memark wrote.