COVINGTON, Ga. — Reported cases of COVID-19 in Newton County continued a decline this week following an early January peak, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
January 2022 produced the highest rates of new COVID-19 cases in Newton County’s history — including 229 new cases reported on Jan. 7 alone — coinciding with a surge of Omicron variant cases across the country in the early new year, according to public health department numbers.
However, between Tuesday, Feb. 1, and Friday, Feb. 4, there were a total of 201 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the county — an average of about 50 per day.
In hospitals in a five-county region that includes Newton, 91% of in-patient beds, 84% of ICU beds and 72% of emergency department beds were filled, according to information from the public health department.
Piedmont Newton Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Norris Little said at this time of year hospitals nationwide typically are full due to seasonal illnesses like the flu, but COVID-19 still affects hospital bed capacity.
“Because (the omicron variant) is more contagious, the number of people hospitalized has put enormous pressure on our hospital, and the nation’s healthcare system, both of which are already stressed,” Little said. “While we encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted, it is critical that individuals with risk factors for severe COVID-19 be vaccinated.”
In Newton County, 44% of residents are fully vaccinated, meaning that they have received two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
A slightly larger proportion, 49%, of residents have received only one dose, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard on Friday, Feb. 4.
A total of 117,338 vaccines had been administered in the county as of Friday.
Older residents were more likely to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with 78.6% of residents aged 55-64 and 91.3% of people aged 65-74.
Younger residents were less likely to be vaccinated, with only 47.1% of people in the 35-44 age range vaccinated — more than 30% less of the age bracket above them. Similarly, 40.1% of those aged 15-19, 39.5% of those aged 20-24 and 40.8% of those aged 35-44 are vaccinated.
Out of children in the 5-9-year-old range, only 9.2% of them are vaccinated — possibly a result of the comparatively recent approval of COVID-19 vaccines for people aged 5-11 in November.
The 10-14-year-old bracket also shows comparatively lower vaccination rates, with 27.7% of children in this age range having received a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, lung disease, immunosuppression of any cause, pregnancy, obesity (BMI greater than 30) or age greater than 65, please protect yourself from this potentially life-threatening illness by getting a COVID-19 vaccine,” Little said.
“We also recommend that, when possible, people use the at-home tests, available at local pharmacies and retailers, before attending a large gathering with vulnerable populations.”
Newton County residents can schedule their vaccine appointment by calling 1-888-456-0186 or by visiting one of the many vaccination sites, which can be found at https://www.co.newton.ga.us/511/COVID-19-Vaccine-Information.