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College counties leading in new cases

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As counties worry over new cases of COVID-19 among students, teachers and staff returning to public schools, counties with some of Georgia’s largest colleges and universities are showing the biggest spikes in cases.

Athens-Clarke County, home of the University of Georgia, has reported 1,253 new cases in the past two weeks. That’s one-third of the cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic – 3,788, including 180 hospitalizations and 34 deaths – which coincides with a return to in-person classes.

Bulloch County, home to Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, is seeing a similar increase. In the past two weeks, there have been 917 positive tests. With a total of 2,439 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, 38 percent of those cases have been reported since the beginning of classes.

Baldwin County, a neighboring county that is home to Georgia College, Georgia Military College and Central Georgia Technical College, is no exception. A total of 405 cases have been reported in the last two weeks, 22.3 percent of the total 1,809 cases reported since March.

As students returned to college in August, student parties at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega went viral nationwide. In the past two weeks, Lumpkin County, which includes Dahlonega, has reported 288 new cases of COVID-19. That’s 29 percent of the total cases reported since March.

Among counties in the North Central Health District, Jones County leads in the percentage of new cases at 7.96 percent. There were five deaths reported previously, but after a data scrub by the district, the number went back down to four.

A report by the NCHD released Sept. 2 showed that a data dump on Aug. 24 resulted in duplicated cases across the health district that have now been scrubbed. A total of 196 cases were reported as duplicates.

The Jones County School system reported two new cases of COVID-19 at Jones County High School during the Aug. 31 to Sept. 4. period. No cases were reported at other schools during the past week.

No new cases have been reported among Jones County’s long-term care facilities.

The NCHD has joined Gov. Brian Kemp in asking Georgians to follow four things for Fall, according to a press release on Sept. 4.

Those four recommendations are:

1. Wear a face covering in public

2. Stay 6 feet away from others

3. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer

4. And follow the public health guidance outlined in Governor Kemp’s Executive order.

“One of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to avoid large gatherings, even those held outdoors,” the release sates. “People who do not know they are infected can still spread COVID-19 to others who then continue the spread by infecting their household or their community. The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19.

“It is also important to remember that face coverings or masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Face coverings prevent the droplets produced by talking, coughing, or sneezing from leaving one person and infecting another.”