SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — COVID-19 cases across Georgia have gone up nearly 14% over the past week and local health experts say highly contagious strains of the omicron variant are to blame.

According to recent numbers, 31 people are currently hospitalized at Memorial Health and four of those people are in the ICU. That’s the seen since roughly February.

As cases and hospitalizations go up, Dr. Tim Connelly, an Internal Medicine Physician at Memorial Health says the number of vaccinated people needing treatment is also increasing.

“The newer strains that are also now the more dominant strains, absolutely are more likely to make people sick even if they had COVID even if they had the vaccine compared to the strain we had four months ago,” says Connelly.

Just last week, the FDA announced that a vaccine targeting new COVID-19 variants will likely be available this Fall after an advisory panel voted for the vaccines to be updated.

“The updated vaccine actually has outstanding efficacy, up to 20 fold more protection with the omicron variant of COVID. So as soon as that comes out, we’re definitely going to need to get that,” Connelly said. “In the mean time we do have quite a bit of protection from the old vaccine, just not as much as with the newer one that actually targets the new mutations in the spike protein that we’re seeing with the omicron variant.”

While doctors are optimistic about this updated vaccine, experts say the ones we have available now still offer important protection — especially as more vaccinated people become sick and are hospitalized due to the omicron variants.

“There’s efficacy across all the different strains with the current vaccines we have but what we are seeing is more people requiring hospitalization that have covid-19 that have been vaccinated, then we’ve seen with the previous wave that we had where almost everybody we saw in the hospital was unvaccinated,” Connelly said.

Still, Dr. Connelly stresses that even if vaccinated people become sick, their symptoms aren’t as severe.

“It’s very unusual or unlikely for the vaccinated people to require high flow oxygen or intubation and ventilation,” says Connelly.

Doctors warn: we aren’t out of the clear and no one is immune to getting severely sick if they don’t take proper precautions.

“It’s not gone, we’re still having a problem, the problem is not going away, it’s probably going to be here for a while and the best way to combat that is for more people to get vaccinated,” Connelly said.

He says we could likely see cases rise in the next few weeks because of the Fourth of July holiday.