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Troup County’s COVID-19 death toll hits 200

Troup County recorded its 200th death related to COVID-19 this week and has seen an increase in cases, according to the latest numbers from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

In the last two weeks, Troup County has had 91 new cases of COVID-19. In the two weeks before, Troup had 29 total cases, per GDPH data.

Dr. Kenneth Horlander, MD, who works at Emory at LaGrange and Wellstar West Georgia in LaGrange, said COVID-19 cases have been increasing since around the beginning of June in Troup County. Additionally, he said hospitalizations are going up.

“I think [hospitalizations are] partly going up because of the increase in cases in general. You’re going to have a percentage of people who catch COVID,” he said. “A percentage of them are going to get sicker, just like before.”

He hypothesized that the increase in cases is due to the more transmissible Delta variant and restrictions such as mask requirements and social distancing being decreased.

He said he didn’t think the Delta variant made people sicker, only that it was more transmissible.

“People who have any increase in risk such as being older, being obese, having hypertension or other comorbidities like diabetes, etc. — anybody with any of those things who does think they caught COVID, they need to get checked to see if they have COVID,” he said.

“And if they do, those people with increased risk need to go get the monoclonal antibody infusion.”

Horlander said the monoclonal antibody infusion is offered at Wellstar.

“Any of the doctors can order it… doctors, the nurse practitioners or the PAs that are out there working, as long as they know about it,” he said.

He explained that people with the aforementioned risk factors are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

“This monoclonal antibody infusion works. This literally will save people’s lives, but only if they go get it. And they have to get it within 10 days [of experiencing symptoms]. … The drug only works when you use it early,” he said.

Horlander said that by the time a person gets sick enough to be hospitalized, it’s too late for the infusion.

Additionally, he said that people without the aforementioned risk factors can’t get it.

“But so many people in Troup County have one of those [risk factors]. And even hypertension counts,” he said.

Horlander said vaccination rates in Troup County are still relatively low.

A total of 26% of Troup County residents are fully vaccinated, according to GDPH, while 28% have had at least one dose.

Horlander stressed that almost everyone should get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“If you’re vaccinated, you’re extremely unlikely to get critically sick,” he said.

“It really does protect against critical illness very, very well.”

He said that all of the people currently hospitalized in his hospital for COVID-19 haven’t been vaccinated against it.

“It’s the non-vaccinated people that are getting very sick,” he said.

“Now, people who have the vaccine can still catch COVID. Because, you remember, it’s like 95% protective. So, 5% will still catch it and get sick some time, but just not critically sick.”

Horlander said that many people, especially in Troup County, have the misconception that because they have certain conditions, they shouldn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Reasons he said people have given for not getting vaccinated include having rheumatoid arthritis, being on immunosuppressant medication and having a child with Down Syndrome.

“And when I talk to these people, it’s the opposite of what’s true,” he said.

“Those people need the vaccine more than anybody else. And their family members need the vaccine to not spread COVID to them. … People who have illnesses, comorbidities, immunosuppression for any reason — they need the vaccine.”

Horlander said the hospital has recently had COVID-19 patients in their 20’s die from the disease.

The World Health Organization recently recommended that even fully vaccinated people wear masks to stop the spread of the Delta variant.

Horlander said he agrees with this advice because COVID-19 vaccines don’t completely protect against catching the disease or spreading it to others. He said that he’s had a couple of vaccinated patients who got sick anyway.  One of them, an immunosuppressed patient, had to be hospitalized.  However, Horlander said he thought the patient probably would have died if he hadn’t been vaccinated.