New variant causing latest surge of COVID-19 cases across state, Georgia health official says

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COVID-19 numbers are on the rise again in Georgia, and state officials place the blame on the new BA.5 variant now going around.

“Now what we’re seeing is that it actually is around 60%, and if you look at that relative to just a few weeks ago, that’s a huge jump,” Georgia state epidemiologist Dr. Cherie Drenzek said.

Drenzek spoke with Channel 2 Action News virtually from home because she is also recovering from a mild case of COVID-19.

She used her own example to urge people to get vaccinated and boosted, saying COVID-19 is much less severe in people who do.

“I’m vaccinated and double-boosted, as well,” Drenzek said. “It really just goes to show that even if you are vaccinated, you might still get infected because we have new variants. Being vaccinated and boosted really helps people from having severe illness, going to the hospital or even any other severe outcomes as well. So I feel very grateful that I had the opportunity to have been vaccinated beforehand.”

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New numbers posted on the Georgia Department of Health website show confirmed COVID-19 cases are up 24%, rising from 15,394 cases to 19,097 cases this week over last week.

Confirmed deaths are up 44%, from 54 to 78.

The bright spot is that hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are up only 8% week to week, from 731 to 793.

Drenzek said the new BA.5 variant makes up more than 60% of all new COVID-19 cases in Georgia.

“It actually is more transmissible, and it also has the ability to evade immunity,” Drenzek said. “What we mean by that is even if you had a prior COVID infection or if you are vaccinated, you still might be able to get BA.5 pretty easily.”

Drenzek said they’re seeing more transmission in places where people congregate, like offices and nursing homes.

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