MACON, Ga. — According to the CDC, COVID-19 cases are on the rise, and the BA.5 subvariant of omicron is making up almost 80% of new cases. Since last week, Georgia's health department reported 21,177 confirmed cases statewide. Infectious disease specialist with Piedmont Macon, Dr. Jennifer Hoffman says the new variant is more contagious, but it's not more severe.
"It's gone from being a tiny proportion of cases back in early May here in the Unites States to being, I think, 78% of all cases last week, so it's the dominant variant right now," Dr. Hoffman said.
Dr. Hoffman encourages everyone to get vaccinated and boosted if they haven't done so already. With the new school year quickly approaching, some schools are still deciding on the mask protocol. April Plunkett of Twiggs County plans to keep her kids safe and faces covered either way.
"I doubt they're going to have the masks, but mine will probably still wear theirs," Plunkett said.
Plunkett's three kids go to Jeffersonville Elementary and Twiggs County Middle schools. October Plunkett is looking forward to the new school year and "making new friends."
13WMAZ reached out to Bibb and Houston County School District for a statement on their plans for a mask mandate in the schools and they responded:
"The Bibb County School District considers the health and safety of all students and staff to be one of its top priorities. The district will continue to follow all infectious disease guidelines and protocols established by the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health."
Houston County responded back with this statement:
"The safety and wellbeing of all students and staff is our top priority. In order to prevent the spread of disease, the Houston County School District will follow our illness protocols and monitor COVID and other infectious diseases for clusters. We will use the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for guidance on these matters."
Dr. Hoffman says wearing a mask will help with COVID prevention.
"The safest thing obviously is for everyone to be masked. Now I know that the public appetite for that is simply not there, so what I would say is that if you are concerned about your child, the thing to do is to make sure that child is wearing either a KN95 or N95 mask to school every day and that they don't take it off inside," Dr. Hoffman said.
The state of Georgia still updates the COVID numbers every Wednesday. Currently, there is an antiviral pill called Paxlovid that you can get from your doctor if you experience COVID symptoms within the first five days. You must talk with your doctor first to see if you meet the criteria for a prescription.