Virus cases rise

The number of COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases in Pierce began rising the week after Thanksgiving and continue to do so. If locals have large Christmas gatherings this week, area doctors expect the spike will continue into 2021.

“Numbers went up exponentially starting a week after Thanksgiving.  Unless people change Christmas plans, we can expect more of the same around the first of the year,” said Dr. Brent Waters of Blackshear Family Practice.

BFP treated more than 50 patients for COVID-19 last week and 46 the week prior. Twenty patients tested positive for the virus in just two days time.

Waters urged Pierce Countians to keep wearing masks and social distancing, and advised folks to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available for the general public.

“My advice would be to keep doing the things that public health officials are recommending such as wearing masks and social distancing.  When the vaccine becomes available, please get it.  I will be getting mine at first opportunity,” Waters said.

According to the school system’s weekly report, positive cases kept ticking up in Pierce County Schools last week, too, but many students weren’t on campus the whole week after having exempted finals. Schools closed Friday for Christmas Break.

The school system reported 20 new COVID-19 cases last week  — eight students and 12 staff members. Eleven students  and 10 faculty members began quarantine at home due to possible exposure to the virus at school last week. Six new cases were reported the week prior and 27 people were advised to quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure at school.

Monday morning Memorial Health reported 26 COVID-19 positive inpatients. The hospital has not yet implemented additional security protocols in response to the rise in cases locally.

“We continue to follow CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines and have maintained a safe environment for our patients since we implemented our protocols in March,” said Tina Kicklighter, director of public relations for the hospital.

The virus spread in Pierce mirrors what is happening across the state.

The Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a report last Monday showing a 13 percent increase in the seven-day average of new cases in Georgia. That’s an 18 percent increase from the state’s previous peak in July.

“These weekly increases may appear small, but they reflect our highest case numbers ever, and are not decreasing or leveling off day to day,” the report read.

Daily hospitalizations for COVID-19 increased 18 percent in a week’s time across the state and emergency department visits for COVID-19 symptoms increased six percent statewide.

According to DPH records, Pierce reported 24 new cases last week. That data tends to lag behind reports from area  medical practices and the school system.