Clayton COVID hospitalizations double since Thanksgiving week
by Robin Kemp
It’s Christmas Week and people are cramming into airports and making the rounds for last-minute holiday gifts. And the omicron variant of COVID-19 is tagging along for the ride like the Grinch hijacking Whoville’s sleigh.
The latest numbers from the Clayton County Health District show a steady upward trend in the number of cases as the Omicron variant races through the country. Since Thanksgiving week, the number of Clayton County who needed to be hospitalized for COVID-19 has doubled. During the 14-day period from November 22 through December 5, 21 people were hospitalized. But the last 14-day period from December 6 through Decmber 19, 41 people were hospitalized–a jump of 95.2%
At least 737 Clayton County residents have died of COVID-19. That’s about 2% of people who are infected. Overall, if you live in Clayton County and you are a Black woman between 20 and 60, you’re at the greatest risk of catching COVID-19. In Clayton County:
- 56.6% of cases strike women
- People ages 30 to 39 make up 18.8% of cases
- The latest figures show people ages 10-49 are being hit hardest
- 58.6% of cases affect Black people
- Non-Hispanic/Latino people make up 63% of cases
- The older you are, the more likely you are to die of COVID-19
- In the 30288 zip code, which is Conley, there’s been a 2,100% increase in cases in the last 14 days.
Those numbers don’t mean that men are more immune to COVID-19 or that being Hispanic or Latino offers some extra protection. They reflect different factors, like the population of Clayton County, who might be less willing to get vaccinated, or who might work in jobs that put them at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19. Someone who works from home is going to be at less risk than someone who works in retail, for example, just because of how many people a retail worker is exposed to daily.
Health experts say Omicron doubles its rate of spread every day and a half to three days–making it as contagious as measles–and are urging people to get their booster shots as soon as possible. It takes a couple of weeks after the COVID-19 shot for your immune system to reach full strength. However, if you are unlucky enough to catch the virus during that window, your body will still have a lot more protection. Doctors say that could mean the difference between feeling under the weather for a few days and dying a slow, painful death on a hospital ventilator.
As of December 19, 2021, 36,575 people in Clayton County have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began. That means, if you’re standing in line with nine other Clayton County residents, at least one of them has tested positive for the virus. Last week, the county reported 604 new cases, with Jonesboro (196) and Riverdale (107) leading the count as usual. Hampton had 52, Ellenwood had 47, Rex and Morrow each had 46, Forest Park had 45, Atlanta in Clayton County had 30, Conley had 17, Fayetteville in Clayton County had 14, College Park in Clayton County had 11, Stockbridge in Clayton County had 7, Lake City had 3, and Lovejoy had 1. Two cases did not indicate the patients’ cities.
Now is the time to get that booster shot if you haven’t already–don’t wait. If you’re planning to travel, you might need to prove you’ve had a negative COVID-19 test within the past 24 hours. (Long lines of cars stretched from a COVID-19 test site on Tara Boulevard at Holiday in Jonesboro Monday.) Vaccinations take about two weeks to reach full power but will provide some level of protection against COVID-19. The problem with the omicron version is that it has mutated into something far more contagious–on the order of measles, doctors say–which means it is spreading more quickly and to more people.
- If you are flying, you must wear a mask at all TSA checkpoints and while you’re in the airport or on a plane. If you don’t you will be fined $250 the first time and up to $1,500 if you do it again.
- If you are flying internationally, you will need to show a COVID-19 viral test taken no earlier than one day before your flight. You have to show this negative test result whether or not you are vaccinated and regardless of your citizenship. If you don’t, you will not be allowed to board your flight.
- Pair vaccination with properly-fitted masks and maintain at least 6 feet of distance between other people and you’ll drastically cut your changes of catching COVID-19 this holiday season.
- You can limit your exposure to the virus while Christmas shopping. Check to see whether your favorite store has an app that allows you to order online, then either pick up your items from a reserved parking space or have them delivered to your door. Target and Walmart offer this service, as do some grocery stores like Publix and Kroger.
- People who have weakened immune systems, as well as older people and people undergoing cancer treatment, have a right to that six feet of personal space, whether in public or at home.
- Chin hammocks, paper neck beards, and beak-peeking Kilroy-Was-Here imitations offer zero protection. Make sure the mask seals properly around your nose, cheeks, and chin.
- Wear a disposable mask beneath a cloth mask cover.
- Treat dirty mask covers like dirty underwear: wash them, don’t re-wear them.
- Is the whole family going to be crammed into one room? Be sure whatever system you have to circulate air is working before they come over. Crack a window when the troops arrive.
- Talk to visiting family members about their vaccination status before they arrive and come to an understanding about house rules and expectations.
White House Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci says you should be at pretty low risk of catching COVID-19 at a gathering of family or friends if you are vaccinated and boosted. However, he warned, you should “make sure you continually wear your mask” in crowded areas like airports.
If you need a shot, call your doctor, pharmacist, or the Clayton County Health District at (678) 479-2223.