SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Georgia can count seven counties in the “Top 20 Delta Danger Zones” for the delta variant in the U.S., according to a new report by a national health nonprofit organization.
Two of those are in the Coastal Empire: Jeff Davis and Bacon counties.
The study by Surgo Ventures found a link between low-income levels showing higher infection rates, especially in rural areas where vaccination rates are low.
In Charlton County, Georgia — ranked first on the “Top 20” list — roughly 15 percent of residents are considered fully vaccinated. Jeff Davis and Bacon counties, closer to the bottom of the list, are around 22 percent of residents fully vaccinated.
The counties are ranked as follows:
1. Charlton, Georgia
2. Newton, Texas
3. Pemiscot, Missouri
4. (tie) McDonald, Missouri
4. (tie) Grundy, Tennessee
6. Ziebach, South Dakota
7. Hempstead, Arkansas
8. Ripley, Missouri
9. Lanier, Georgia
10. Motley, Texas
11. Baker, Florida
12. Telfair, Georgia
13. Heard, Georgia
14. Holmes, Florida
15. Washington, Florida
16. Carter, Missouri
17. Jeff Davis, Georgia
18. Texas, Missouri
19. Treutlen, Georgia
20. Bacon, Georgia
State health leaders say unvaccinated people are at the greatest risk for COVID-19 infections and are seeing more younger people contract the virus.
“If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected fairly effectively with the delta variant, maybe 80%. You can still get infected but if you do, like a bad cold but not get very sick and do OK,” said Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Carlos Del Rio with Emory University.
That’s why the state’s health equity council is working with community and faith-based organizations to educate Georgians about the vaccine’s benefits.
“It is pretty clear on those who are most at risk and that’s those who are unvaccinated. The data is clear that individuals who are vaccinated have remote problems of getting infected,” said Dr. Cecil Bennett Newnan Family Medicine, Atlanta Doctor.
Health experts say vaccine hesitancy is still low in communities of color and in rural areas, with six out of 10 Georgians still not vaccinated.
“Mask yourself if you are not vaccinated and that became impossible indoors and I am worried we will see transmission indoors,” said Rio.
“We know that the delta variant is more contagious than the typical COVID virus and so those who are unvaccinated are at much greater risk for not only getting it but also being hospitalized as well,” said Bennett.
“My advice is what happens oh how the population does and how good we do in vaccinating people,” said Rio.
For those who are home-bound, Georgia’s Department of Public Health (DPH) has referred nearly 4,000 doses for at-home vaccinations to local health clinics and is setting up mobile vaccine stations in hard to reach areas.
The state is allocating vaccines to doctors to ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine, but can only provide small supplies because of storage limitations.
The DPH says Georgia has 204 cases of the delta variant, but that number is likely much higher because of lower testing results.
“People who are unvaccinated are at most risk for COVID, and the delta variant. The bottom line is we have a vaccine that prevents people from getting sick or for those who are vaccinated and do get sick, the illness is less severe and less likely to result in hospitalization or death. Whether it’s COVID, the flu or any number of other infectious diseases, the elderly, young children and people who are immunocompromised are always at greatest risk for serious illness and severe complications.”Nancy Nydam, Department of Health
WJBF contributed to this report.