STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – One month ago, Statesboro made national news when the New York Times reported it was a hotspot for coronavirus. Since then, WSAV has been tracking the county’s progress with information from local health officials.
After reading the New York Times Article, local health officials warned Statesboro, like many other cities on the list, was a hotspot because it is, predominantly, a college town and a gathering place for many young people.
John Lester, a spokesperson for Georgia Southern University (GS), says intense safety measures — including contact tracing, signage, hand sanitizer stations, and more — are why cases are decreasing at the university.
“It’s obvious things are working,” he said.
Last week, data from the university shows just 19 people tested positive for the virus. That includes students, staff and faculty members at all three campuses who may be a university-confirmed or self-reported case.
During the week of Aug. 24-30, 508 people at GS tested positive.
“We think that the precautions we took and the measures that our community took are making an impact,” said Lester.
The mayor and city council members enacted a citywide mask mandate on August 18. Because the university is such a big part of the City of Statesboro, the entire county is seeing a benefit from Georgia Southern’s success.
“I think that the decline of cases is really indicative that the mitigation, the prevention strategies and recommendations and contact tracing… are effective,” said Dr. Rosemarie Parks, Southeast Health District’s health director.
On Sept. 1, on average, 26 percent of PCR tests were coming back positive in Bulloch County. On Wednesday, that has decreased to 6.4 percent.
Overall transmission rates in the Southeast Health District, however, are a bit higher.
“It’s still around 10 percent of tests being positive, so even though individuals may not be getting tested as frequently as they were back in August or July…there’s still high positivity,” said Southeast Health District Emergency Preparedness Director Trevor Thomas.
It’s why both Thomas and Parks say now is not the time to let your guard down.
“We know this virus very easily transmits between people. It’s going to be really important for people to continue the recommendations and not become complacent,” said Parks.
As always, that means social distancing, washing your hands and wearing a mask. Health officials also advise you to get a flu shot in the next few weeks.