DeKalb County sees spike in positive COVID-19 cases going into 2022

Holiday gatherings and the rise of the Omicron variant means more DeKalb County residents will likely be entering 2022 as COVID-19 positive.

On Dec. 23, DeKalb County officials activated a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warning that alerted residents and visitors of the spiking Omicron variant across metro-Atlanta as shoppers converged on stores and families started traveling for the holidays. The alert also asked residents and visitors alike to protect themselves and each other by wearing masks in public places, practicing social distancing, avoiding large gatherings, getting tested and getting vaccinated.

“COVID case numbers are increasing daily, and the Omicron variant is spreading faster than any previous variant,” stated officials on the Georgia Department of Public Health’s (DPH) website.

According to the DeKalb Board of Health’s latest data, reported on Dec. 27, every zip code in DeKalb County saw an increase of 5 percent or greater in positive COVID-19 cases between Nov. 23 and Dec. 20.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses genomic sequencing data to project current variant proportions and now estimates Omicron accounts for more than 73 percent of new COVID cases in the United States. Given the rapid transmissibility of the Omicron variant, the current proportion of Omicron in Georgia is likely similar to that of the national estimate, and presumably will account for all new COVID cases in the state in the coming weeks,” stated DPH officials.

If measures taken by DeKalb County officials at the end of 2021 are any indication of what is likely to happen in 2022, the focus will be incentivizing people of all ages throughout DeKalb County to get vaccinated.

In the beginning of December, DeKalb became the first county in the state of Georgia to incentivize children aged 5 and older to get the shot. “We (were) pleased to have lots of families lining up together to get vaccinated for the first time, and we saw plenty of kids as young as 5 years old getting their first shot and a $100 gift card,” said DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry at the event in Stone Mountain.
DeKalb County officials said incentives, such as gift cards, and organizing drive-up events throughout DeKalb County has led to more than 8,000 residents getting vaccinated.

DeKalb County employees are also eligible for incentives—$300 after they provide documentation by Jan. 31, 2022, that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Additionally, employees can receive a $200 incentive after they provide documentation that they have received the fall 2021 flu vaccination, stated officials.

As of Dec. 20, approximately 58 percent of DeKalb County government’s 6,300 employees have submitted documentation proving that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while approximately 34 percent of the county’s employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have received flu shots, stated officials. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 52 percent of Georgians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 55 percent of DeKalb County residents are fully vaccinated.

DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond talks to a resident getting a vaccine and gift card at one of the drive-thru vaccination events the county organized throughout 2021. File Photo

“We will have continued small vaccine events with $100 cash cards through 2022,” said Kelly Cato, District 6 coordinator for Commissioner Terry. “We’re also working with the (DeKalb County School District) to offer incentivized events.”

Regardless of the variant, mitigation and prevention measures for COVID-19 are the same, stated DPH officials. To help prevent transmission and to reduce the risk of exposure, DPH recommends the following:

• Get a COVID vaccination and booster dose.
• For young children who aren’t yet eligible for the COVID vaccine, reduce the risk of exposure by making sure the people around them are vaccinated.
• Wear well-fitting masks over nose and mouth in public indoor settings.
• Physically distance, about 6 feet, around people outside of your own household.
• Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces and remember that outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities.
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
• If you are sick or have symptoms of COVID-19, do not host or attend a gathering.
• Follow CDC recommendations for holiday travel.
• Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

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