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South Georgia COVID Surge Worries Health Officials

In this Feb. 8, 2021, file photo, Florida seniors have their temperatures taken before receiving the second dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Jackson Health System in Miami.
Marta Lavindier
Associated Press

Health officials in eight southeast Georgia counties are sounding the alarm as new cases of COVID-19 are skyrocketing. 

In Camden County, where the vaccination rate is under 30%, cases of COVID have tripled in the last two weeks alone. The surge amounts to about 68% of Camden County’s peak in December, according to the New York Times

The percentage of tests coming back positive in southeast Georgia’s Coastal Health District is nearly 18%, meaning cases are likely being undercounted as the virus spreads widely. 

“People are gathering and traveling more, there are fewer restrictions in place, and the more contagious delta variant is circulating,” said Angela Hartley, Clinical Director for the Coastal Health District, which includes eight southeast Georgia counties. “When you combine these factors and our low vaccination rate, it’s not surprising to see this jump in cases. We really need more people to get vaccinated.”

According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the groups most likely to say they will never get vaccinated are people who live in rural areas, Republicans, and uninsured people under 65. The most common reasons people choose not to get vaccinated are concerns that the vaccine is new, mistrust in the government, and just not wanting to. 

In order to encourage people to get vaccinated, the Coastal Health District has begun highlighting the stories of people who have chosen to get vaccinated. 

“People will expect me to say you should take your vaccine, but Suzie Q on the street, or John Doe who’s just your next door neighbor, hearing his or her story and reasoning behind why they were vaccinated, it may reach or touch some of those people who are in the hesitant phase,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Coastal Health District. 

The COVID-19 vaccine is always free, and is available at southeast Georgia health departments, most health care facilities, and many local pharmacies. 

Contact Sydney Boles at, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.

Sydney manages community engagement programs like WJCT News' Coronavirus Texting Service. Originally from the mountains of upstate New York, she relocated to Jacksonville from Kentucky, where she reported on Appalachia's coal industry.