SAVANNAH, GA. (WSAV) – Since reopening, the Coastal Empire has seen a steady increase in COVID-19 infections. Still, out of 18 health districts in Georgia, it has the second-lowest number of reported cases.
But with an outcry of massive protests and a shift into summer health, officials feel we may not keep that status for long.
“A fertile population, a fertile ground, is out there for the virus to continue to spread,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Coastal Health District.
Data shows the region has seen close to a 700 case jump between April 29 and the present day. During that time period, thousands flooded Tybee beaches for Memorial Day and Black Lives Matter protests have erupted across the state.
“In fact, in 24 hours from yesterday morning to this morning, we’ve had one of our largest single-day numbers of reported cases in our district and in Chatham County,” said Davis.
He tells WSAV News 3 that it’s not yet time to sound the alarms. Davis said one day doesn’t mean it’s a trend — he is predicting it’ll be at least another week before we can really gauge the impact.
“The good news is we’ve had low rates of infection, low numbers of cases and relatively few deaths compared to other areas of the state,” said Davis. “The bad news is on the flip side of that, is there are a lot of people out there who have not yet been exposed.”
Health officials still aren’t sure if infection and recovery equal immunity, but Davis says if we assume for a moment that it does, then close to 98% of the population is still vulnerable.
“If we relax our standards too much we could be setting ourselves up for a resurgence of community transmission,” Davis said of what’s known as a “second wave.”
This is fear now engrained in the minds of many South Carolinians when they heard state epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell express grave concern in Wednesday’s press conference.
“Today I am more concerned about COVID-19 in South Carolina than I have ever been before,” Bell said.
Davis said he understands her concern.
“What she’s seeing is what we are all seeing…that people are tired of wearing a mask, tired of social distancing standards,” he explained. “People are ready to get on with their lives and I understand that.”
WSAV News 3 did reach out St. Joseph/Candler and Memorial Health hospitals about their current hospitalization numbers.
A spokesperson for St. Joseph’s/Candler says nine patients are at St. Joseph’s and three are at Candler Hospital. A spokesperson for Memorial Health said they have nine total patients and a decline of about 2% in cases over the past two weeks.
Davis urged that now is not the time to get comfortable. He said it’s important to wear face coverings in public and continue to social distance.