A look at major COVID-19 developments over the past week

In this file photo, people wait to get their second COVID-19 vaccination shot during a DeKalb County Board of Health and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. COVID-19 vaccination site in Stonecrest, Wednesday, February 10, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
In this file photo, people wait to get their second COVID-19 vaccination shot during a DeKalb County Board of Health and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. COVID-19 vaccination site in Stonecrest, Wednesday, February 10, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

President Joe Biden visited the Atlanta headquarters of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday to thank public health workers and to declare that “science is back.”

As he showered CDC workers with gratitude and praise, Biden also warned that the COVID-19 outbreak could be a harbinger of what’s to come in an increasingly globalized society.

“I hope this is the beginning of the end of not paying attention to what’s going to come again and again and again. We can build all the walls we want, we’ve got the most powerful armies in the world,” he said. “But we cannot stop these viruses, other than being aware where they are and to move quickly on them when we find them.”

Biden’s visit to the CDC was part of a trip that was initially intended to celebrate the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, though it was refocused to show support for the Asian American community after the deadly shootings of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at metro Atlanta spas.

Still, Biden touted the sweeping aid measure during his remarks to CDC staffers, calling it a “bipartisan effort” even though it squeezed through Congress without any Republican support.

Here’s a look at other major developments related to COVID-19 over the past week.

Not the time to get complacent

Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a media briefing that now is not the time to get complacent. He said the public needs to continue wearing masks, avoiding crowds and practicing social distancing as the U.S. ramps up its vaccination effort.

Several European nations, including France and Italy, have experienced recent surges in cases attributed to the U.K. strain, which is more infectious and potentially more lethal.

In this country, Fauci said, it is believed the U.K. strain makes up about 20% to 30% of new cases, and that number is rising.

Cases nationally have plateaued at more than 50,000 cases per day, down significantly from the fall and winter surge.

It’s critical that the public continues to avoid infection through mask use and following other public health guidance, Fauci said. Jurisdictions removing public health restrictions risk reversing progress made against the virus, he said.

Federal data through Wednesday showed 21 states reporting week-over-week increases in cases. Of those, 13 reported increases of greater than 10%, with Michigan reporting more than a 50% increase in new infections, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of the data showed.

Georgia has shown across the board improvement in cases, current hospitalizations and test positivity. The seven-day rolling average of new confirmed and suspected cases in Georgia, as of Friday, was down more than 80% from the Jan. 11 peak.

The number of people hospitalized on Friday afternoon – 1,253 – was the lowest number since early October, before the deadly third wave. The average of newly reported deaths also has plummeted.

Billboards getting the message out about vaccines to combat the COVI-19 pandemic are up throughout the metro Atlanta area. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)
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Billboards getting the message out about vaccines to combat the COVI-19 pandemic are up throughout the metro Atlanta area. (John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com)

Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com

Credit: John Spink / John.Spink@ajc.com

Most Georgians now eligible for vaccine

Georgia’s biggest push to date to curb the COVID-19 pandemic began Monday with overwhelming demand.

Eligibility for the vaccine was expanded to most Georgians and now includes those 55 and older. Also eligible are those with asthma, compromised immune systems, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, sickle cell disease and other health issues. People who are overweight also are included.

Five new mass vaccination centers opened in Bartow, Chatham, Muscogee, Ware and Washington counties. The new sites join existing centers in Albany, Atlanta, Macon and northeast Georgia.

Frustrations continue over trying to book an appointment. It’s complicated because each local public health office also may have its own separate registration system. Another problem is people are getting appointments through multiple websites and not canceling the ones they don’t plan to show up for.

Appointments were quickly booked at vaccination sites in Fulton County, DeKalb County, Habersham County and Macon.

Fulton’s vaccine hotline saw a surge in callers trying to get a place in line. Meanwhile, rural areas of Georgia saw the opposite situation, with more doses than people willing or able to take them. Some savvy metro Atlanta vaccine seekers have been taking advantage of the low demand by booking appointments in distant zip codes, and Gov. Brian Kemp urged Atlanta-area residents to do just that to keep vaccines from going to waste.

In this file photo, Gov. Brian Kemp and Delta CEO Ed Bastian head to a press conference after touring the COVID-19 vaccination site set up at the Delta Flight Museum in Hapeville.
Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Caption
In this file photo, Gov. Brian Kemp and Delta CEO Ed Bastian head to a press conference after touring the COVID-19 vaccination site set up at the Delta Flight Museum in Hapeville. Ben Gray for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

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Staff writers Eric Stirgus, Ariel Hart and Johnny Edwards contributed to this article.