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Department of Public Health official weighs in on increase of COVID-19 cases
Covid test stock
Photo by Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash), Unsplash.

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During the week of Dec. 26, the global cases of COVID-19 “increased by 11% as compared to the previous week” which cited an increase of 9%, according to the World Health Organization.

On a smaller scale, Forsyth County has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases with 204 testing positive between Dec. 11-17 and 806 testing positive from Dec. 18-24, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Natasha Young, the public information officer for Georgia’s DPH District 2, said that between Dec. 27 and Dec. 28, the Forsyth County testing site operated by Mako has “administered over 500 [COVID-19 PCR] tests.”

Young said that at the same time last year, “the health departments were shifting away from testing to vaccinations,” but District 2 had a testing location in the county that was open one day a week.

“The SPOC testing site provided 615 tests total the month of December 2020, while the Health Department would separately test 15-20 per day,” Young said.

She said that it was “not surprising to see an increase in respiratory infections at this time of year,” as other countries have been experiencing spikes in cases of COVID-19, influenza and the common cold.

“This omicron peak speaks to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 virus and the importance of getting vaccinated to protect yourself and others,” Young said.

Speaking about the omicron variant of COVID-19, Young said that “we are still working to understand its pattern.”

“Symptoms seem to be milder; however, with how quickly it is spreading, severe outcomes could be substantial,” Young said. “Vaccination remains important to protect against infection and severe illness.”

Young also recognized that testing sites are “all ... crowded and there are long waits,” so she advised people to stay at home and isolate for at least five days if their symptoms are mild.

“Wearing a mask in public for an additional five days is a reasonable course of action,” she said. “Everyone should remain committed to masking up, physical distancing and washing your hands.”

As of Monday, Dec. 27, the Centers for Disease Control updated the recommended isolation requirements, shortening the period to five days if “they are asymptomatic or their symptoms are resolving (without fever for 24 hours), [followed] ... by five days of wearing a mask when around others.”

 “The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs

 early in the course of illness, generally in the one to two days prior to onset of symptoms and the two to

 three days after,” the CDC said.

Young also encouraged people to “avoid infection by getting vaccinated and boosted and wearing masks appropriately,” so as to limit the possibility of the virus mutating.

“While possible, as long as the virus is replicating in human hosts, it can mutate,” Young said. “It could continue to mutate to more easily transmissible variants that cause mild illnesses similar to common colds or mutate to a more virulent form.”

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