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Wednesday July 6th, 2022 7:02PM

Community encouraged by COVID decline

By Kimberly Sizemore Anchor/Reporter

Local officials are encouraged that COVID cases are decreasing across the region. Hospitalizations have also gone down.

Carrol Burrell, President and CEO of Northeast Georgia Health System, spoke at a Hall County Chamber of Commerce Board meeting sharing the positive news. “I’m happy to report that as of today we are down 242 covid positive patients. That’s down from our peak a couple of weeks ago of well over 300.”

Burrell says that while the numbers are decreasing, the community should still take precautions against COVID-19 due to the speed of the decline. “We are pleased that we are seeing a downward trend. I can tell you that the downward trend is not as rapid of a decline as we’ve seen in other surges, but we still remain hopeful. In fact, this surge has been more challenging than others. In fact, in this surge, we had to go to ICU Diversion, which is something we NEVER do.” She also mentioned the high rate of those who are hospitalized are unvaccinated.

Local school officials say they are also seeing the same downward trend. Hall County Schools spokesman Stan Lewis says the local school system has seen a major decline in COVID-19 cases over the past few weeks. “We are very encouraged by the numbers. We peaked back on September 2nd when we had 451 cases in our district. That was 78 employees and 373 students and today we are down to 146 cases, 26 of those being staff and 120 of those being students. That’s about a 70% drop.”

Throughout this fourth surge, Hall County Schools has enacted temporary mask mandates on several of its schools to combat the spread of the virus. Now, the only school left with a mask mandate in the system is Myers Elementary School, and that mandate runs out this week, all thanks to these declining COVID numbers. “We look at each school each day and we do that by a case-by-case basis," says Lewis. "When we see a significant increase in cases over a short period of time at a school, that’s when we decide to go to masks. We do know masks slow the spread some, but we are also very well aware that masks come at a cost. There is the emotional well-being impacted on our students and it impacts learning when young children can’t see faces of their teachers. Teachers also need to be able to read the faces of their students.”

Lewis says that, even with the current drop in cases, they are still careful to take precautions. “We are continuing to do our very best to manage the situation. One of the things we are looking at doing is using UV Light treatment with some devices. We are going to pilot that at some high-traffic areas in some of our schools just so we can continue to keep the flow of fresh air. Ventilation and all that is very important battling the virus and so we are going to continue to do that.”

Another nearby school, Lakeview Academy, has had a mask mandate in place for its students and staff since the start of school last month.

Kirsty Montogomery, Head of School at Lakeview, says the mandate has helped keep students and staff in school. “We’ve had no more than 3-4 cases at the time. Currently, we’ve got 1 student in the upper school, 1 staff member, 1 faculty, and 1 admin, but no one is quarantining because we have the mask mandate in place.”

Montgomery says that while people were definitely worried about the rise in COVID cases from the surge, the school has worked to build trust in its community. She says for them it’s been all about the data and not about anything else.

“I think the fact that we have been transparent with our data and have put all of the information out there, making decisions on a weekly basis, we have built a level of trust among our community – the Lakeview Community – and the feeling that we can get through this.”

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: hall county, Hall County School District, Carol Burrell, Lakeview Academy, coronavirus pandemic, COVID, COVID hospitalizations , COVID surge, stan lewis
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