Cases of COVID-19 and monkeypox are continuing to decline in Georgia, officials with the state Department of Public Health reported Tuesday.
COVID cases in Georgia are down about 80% since mid-August, Dr. Cherie Drenzek, the agency’s epidemiologist and chief science officer, told members of the state Board of Public Health.
Hospitalizations are down 89% since the omicron variant hit its peak last winter, while the number of deaths from the virus in Georgia has fallen to about 100 per week, she said.
However, three new omicron subvariants are starting to show up in Georgia and around the country, Drenzek said. Together, they account for about 23% of the current caseload in Georgia, she said.
“Whether they will continue to grow or not, I can’t say for certain,” Drenzek said. “It warrants us keeping a close eye on them.”
Dr. Alexander Millman, chief medical officer for the Department of Public Health (DPH), said the new booster shots that target the omicron variant can be administered at the same time as annual flu shots.
The new boosters are widely available to adults, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the children’s version of the booster soon, he said.
Drenzek said cases of monkeypox have declined consistently during the last few weeks both in Georgia and nationally.
Georgia has 1,839 cases of the virus in 64 counties, she said. However, 85% of those cases are concentrated in metro Atlanta, she said.
The vast majority of cases are in men who have sex with men, Drenzek said. In fact, 98% of the Georgia cases are in men.
Only 5% percent of the state’s monkeypox patients are hospitalized, Drenzek said.
However, a small number of cases are severe, usually involving HIV-positive men with compromised immune systems, she said.
Millman said monkeypox vaccines are proving highly effective in preventing the disease.
“This vaccine is truly able to protect people who have had exposure from developing monkeypox,” he said.
Amy Benson, who heads the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ Opioid Substance Misuse Response Program, told board members a new version of multi-colored fentanyl is gaining national attention.
None of the “rainbow” fentanyl has appeared yet in Georgia or bordering states, but it’s likely a matter of time before it does, she said.
While law enforcement agencies haven’t uncovered any efforts to market the drug to children, the multiple colors would appeal to young people, Benson said.
“With Halloween coming up, this is something that potentially could be a problem,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said.
Benson said efforts are underway in Georgia to increase public access to fentanyl test strips and to naloxone, a drug used to treat opioid overdoses.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.