SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Local health leaders said the Coastal Empire is likely seeing a surge from the Fourth of July weekend, and that the true number of new cases is likely much higher than we know.

In the struggle for omicron sub-variant dominance between BA.4 and BA.5, the latter is winning in Georgia.

“And now BA.5 is accounting for some 78 or 79% of the cases in Georgia,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, Health Director for the Coastal Health District.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reports a 6% jump in cases over last week. But Chatham County has spiked 18% in that time. And the entire 8 county Coastal Empire has seen a 78% jump in cases in just one week.

But Davis says the true number of local cases could be much higher, because at-home tests aren’t included in the official count.

“It’s estimated that the true number of cases may be as much as 5 or even 10 times higher than what you see in the official data,” Davis says.

Hospitalizations are also up, statewide, for the 11th consecutive week. But despite rising numbers, Davis said there is a bit of good news in that we’re far better off than we were even a year ago.

“The vaccines do remain very effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalizations and death,” Davis said.

He warns, however, that the new dominant variant still poses a risk of leaving patients with long COVID symptoms.

“Even people with mild cases can develop what we call long COVID, and have ongoing, lingering fatigue and, ya know, other problems … joint aches,” Davis said.

South Carolina is seeing higher COVID infection numbers as well. Statewide cases are up four and a half percent over last week and in Beaufort County, they’re up 28%.