Northeast Georgia Health System is now offering each of its employees a $400 incentive for being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The health system announced the incentive to all of its employees on Tuesday, according to spokesman Sean Couch. Employees who were fully vaccinated between when the health system first offered the vaccine in January to Tuesday were automatically offered a one-time, $400 check. Out of those, two names were drawn to receive an additional $5,000 check.
The remaining employees who have not been fully vaccinated have until September 30 to receive the $400 check, according to Couch. Full-time and part-time employees are eligible and will receive their check in October if they participate.
Couch said the health system decided to offer an incentive after the rate of fully vaccinated employees stalled at 50 percent.
"We wanted to make sure that we're showing our employees that their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of our patients and visitors is paramount," said Couch. "Anything we can do to incentivize remaining folks to get vaccinated was the key driver behind this [decision]."
Employees are not required to be vaccinated at an NGHS location in order to qualify for a check, however they must show proof that they have been fully vaccinated by displaying a vaccine card.
The decision comes as many areas in Georgia, and across the nation, are seeing a rise in positive COVID-19 cases. In fact, recent data from the health system shows that positive cases among patients has nearly tripled within the last week, from 32 to 91.
Among these positive cases, 90 percent are unvaccinated.
"Which really underscores, to please get vaccinated," said Couch. "It's the best way to make sure that if you were to get COVID-19, that you would not have to be hospitalized or, unfortunately, lead to death in some cases."
Couch's recommendation comes amid urgings from other organizations, including the Georgia Department of Public Health, to get a vaccine. A press release sent this afternoon by the Georgia DPH states the COVID-19 case rate is up 204 percent in the past two weeks. New cases topped out at 4,612 yesterday, the highest in a single day since February.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations statewide have increased 50 percent in a two-week span, while deaths have increased 18 percent in the same amount of time.
“Unfortunately, we can expect COVID numbers to keep growing. People who are unvaccinated or skip their second dose of vaccine are targets for infection,” said Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the Delta variant. High vaccination coverage will reduce spread of the virus in your community and elsewhere - and help prevent new variants from emerging.”
On a more local level, community leaders and some NGHS staff, including NGHS President Carol Burrell, will join the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce Thursday for an update about COVID-19 in the community. Those in attendance plan to discuss COVID-19 cases, variants and vaccines, according to a press release. The meeting will take place from 12 p.m. until 1 p.m. and is open to the public. A link to attend is on the Greater Hall Chamber website.
Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health shows that 36 percent of Hall County's population has been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
As the vaccine continues to be readily available, some mass vaccination sites are closing. Such is the case with the District 2 Department of Public Health site at the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus.
According to a statement released by Hall County Government, the last dose will be administered today. The site opened earlier this year inside the Hugh Mills Physical Education Complex on campus, where healthcare workers administered 20,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines.
Those who received the first dose of their vaccine at the UNG site, but have an appointment for the second dose after today, will need to get their shot at the Department of Public Health facility at 1290 Athens Street in Gainesville. Walk-ins are welcome at the facility, as well.