Douglas County had the highest number of new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people of any county in the state over the last two weeks.

Numbers from the state Department of Public Health show Douglas with 2,688 cases per 100,000 people over the two-week reporting period ending Wednesday, the last day data was available. Henry County was the next closest to Douglas in the metro area with 2,576 cases per 100,000 over the last two weeks.

Those numbers only account for new cases confirmed with PCR tests and don’t include antigen rapid-result tests.

High transmission is considered anything above 100 cases per 100,000 residents.

The Douglas County School System announced Friday evening that masks will be required in all schools starting Monday. In an email to parents, the school system said Cobb & Douglas Public Health “suggests we implement this mask requirement for two weeks.”

“Again, our goal and commitment is to keep student and staff safety a priority, while we continue with in-person learning,” the school system said in the email.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health Director Dr. Janet Memark said in her email update on the coronavirus Wednesday that the positivity rate in Douglas was at 43.5% and at 34.6% in Cobb, which had a two-week case rate per 100,000 of 2,068.

Memark called the number of new cases as the omicron variant hits both counties “astronomical.”

“These rates have far surpassed what we have seen at any other point during the pandemic,” Memark said. “Hospitals are also under strain. Together, our area hospitals are very close to surpassing the highest number of COVID patients they have had admitted to the hospital. Remember that the hospitals have been fighting this pandemic for almost two years. They are the last line of defense we have to care for our community.”

Overall, Douglas had 4,083 new confirmed cases over the two-week period ending Wednesday. And the county stood at 22,592 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago.

The number of deaths in Douglas caused by COVID was at 256 on Wednesday, an increase of six from the 250 total deaths as of Dec. 5, according to the state.

The seven-day moving average of cases, another statistic the state uses to show trends, hit another pandemic-high of 369.6 for Douglas on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the last day data were available, that number had dropped slightly to 362.1. The previous high for the seven-day moving average was 109.6 on Jan. 11, 2021. During the most recent surge last fall, the seven-day moving average in Douglas topped out at 106.1 on Sept. 6, 2021.

Memark said that while the omicron variant has been mild for most people, it still poses a problem.

“Many of you may be asking yourselves, ‘What’s the problem when all the people that I know who caught omicron only have mild symptoms?’ Well, here is the problem. Even if it is a milder form of COVID-19, it is much more infectious, and these are still those people who will get seriously ill. It has been able to even evade some of our immune and vaccine protection against transmission of the virus. These mutations have given it the ability to infect more people much faster. With tens of thousands of people sick at the same time, even a small percentage of those who get sick enough to go to the hospital can still be a large number and overwhelm the health system that we have in place,” Memark said.

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