Troup County sees rise in breakthrough cases of COVID-19; public health officials say vaccinations offer hope

Published 8:00 am Friday, December 31, 2021

As COVID cases surge nationally due to the Omicron variant, Troup County began to see a rise in cases, too. As of Dec. 30, Troup County saw 851 cases in two weeks, according to a report by the Georgia Department of Public Health. The state of Georgia had 119,825 positive vaccinated citizens out of 1,402,483 positive cases, according to the Georgia COVID-19 Breakthrough Report from the GDPH.

Kenneth Horlander, a physician for Emory at LaGrange, said he witnessed the increasing cases firsthand through his work.

“There’s definitely an increasing number and a high number of cases in our area. A lot of people are sick, most of it seems to be COVID,” Horlander said. “There are some other viruses, and even the flu is going around.” 

Hayla Folden, Media Relations Specialist for District 4 of GDPH, said the GDPH is currently experiencing a strain on its resources. She said this is a result of the increase in cases.

“Personally [for] the health department, we have enough tests. The tests are not the problem. It’s that we don’t have enough people to test more days,” Folden said. “We have to continue providing all of the other services that we do. We can’t shut down the health department and stop providing services. We have to use the staff that we have to provide all of our services but also tests. That’s where we are.”

Folden said she understands the frustration Troup County members may feel towards the CDC. She said it is important to understand that science and COVID are constantly changing.

“It might seem like the CDC is just changing their mind every three weeks because they don’t know what they’re doing. That’s not the case,” Folden said. “We are actually living through the science rather than looking back at the science.” 

Folden said incidents like the Omicron surge have occurred multiple times in recent years.

“We saw this with Ebola, with H1N1 and with SARS,” Folden said. “It’s very frustrating when you’re going through it because it’s hard to keep up with the changes and what you’re supposed to do.”

She said there are things that can be done to help ease the spread of the Omicron variant.

“We like to remind people that no matter what the illness is: if it’s airborne, if it’s something like flu, something you can catch by people coughing and sneezing, then having some distance between people is always going to help you,” Folden said.

Folden said the CDC provides good advice on how to help manage the spread. This includes things like washing hands and wearing a mask .

“Washing your hands is always going to help you. Wearing a mask, that’s an individual preference. Some people are going to do it, some people are not. It does help if the person who is sick is wearing a mask,” Folden said.

“The six-foot rule is very helpful right now. These are things we always say. We’ve been saying it for years. These are the things you can do to prevent it without medication.”

Horlander said Emory at LaGrange is seeing a lot of community members in their hospital.

“We have a lot of people that are in the regular hospital rooms with COVID. We have some in the ICU. From a percentage perspective, it doesn’t seem to be as bad as Delta was,” Horlander said.

Horlander said he sees many of Troup County’s medical staff fatigued by the effects of treating COVID.

“Many people including medical people are definitely tired of it,” Horlander said. “A lot of people in the medical field, some of them have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from thinking back and worrying about what’s coming.”

Perry Prather, pharmacist and owner of Holmes Pharmacy in LaGrange said they have sold out of at home testing kits. 

“We’ve sold out of all the home tests we’ve had. We’re doing a lot of testing. As far as masks, no, people don’t buy masks too much,” Prather said.

“I don’t know if they get them somewhere else, but we do sell out of the home kits every time we get them.”

Horlander said he has seen a wide array of emotions from community members during this increase in cases. 

“You see all these different emotions. A lot of people handle it in varying ways. What I’m seeing a lot of is a huge worry about potentially getting very sick,” Horlander said.

Horlander said he has not been shocked by the increase, but understands the concern of his patients.

“I’ve seen so many cases of COVID. It’s almost not as shocking, but some of these people getting COVID never had COVID. They tried so hard not to get it. They got their vaccines and now they have COVID,” Horlander said.

Horlander said he tries to make sure people understand where they stand with the disease when they are diagnosed.

“My latest thing now is trying to calm people down and let them know [it is] very, very likely you’re going to be okay,” Horlander said.

Horlander said he recommends all of his patients get vaccinated and that it is free of charge with or without insurance.

“If someone’s not vaccinated, I want them to know I’m still telling everyone to get vaccinated. Be more scared about what the infection of COVID does to [your] body than the vaccine,” Horlander said. “As time goes by we’re seeing it’s even safer than we ever thought it was. It’s safe. Just as important is getting the booster [shot].” 

Prather said he believes the Troup County community has done well with vaccinations. Holmes Pharmacy saw a consistent stream of citizens getting their shot.

“I think that the community has done well with it. We’re getting a lot of responses to the vaccination which I’m really pleased with,” Prather said. “For a long time, before some of this second round hit a couple of months ago, nobody was getting [the vaccines] and then all of a sudden it kind of picked back up.”

Prather said he believes the key to reducing the spread of COVID is vaccination, though he understands this might make some citizens hesitant.  

“The key to it is vaccination. It is hard, scientifically, to talk to a person who is not medical or [doesn’t] understand diseases. It’s hard to convince a person to do that. It’s hard to convince somebody to do that.” Prather said. “We’re still seeing a steady rate and people are getting boosters. Then, its pretty steady coming in for [the] first and second dose.”

Folden said Troup County has seen a rise in vaccinations which is great for reducing the spread.

“Fourty-one percent of Troup County has at least one dose. Thirty-seven percent are fully vaccinated. That is incredible because for a while it was stuck at 21% were fully vaccinated,” she said.

“That’s still low, 37% fully vaccinated is very low. But it’s incredible that it’s moved up that high. That’s way higher than it was.”