CHAMBLEE, Ga. — The surge of COVID-19 cases due to the omicron variant has officials worried as many people prepare to gather for the Christmas holiday.
Georgia saw the highest level of new cases Tuesday since early October with the state reporting more than 3,700 new cases.
The seven-day case average is also higher. It has more than doubled in just the last week.
So far, the rise in cases has not translated into a significant uptick in hospitalizations. Just over 1,200 people who were hospitalized in Georgia as of Wednesday were COVID-19 patients, down from more than 6,000 during the delta surge in September.
Intensive care units across the state were at 81% capacity Wednesday morning and emergency rooms were at 66% capacity. During the delta surge that peaked in September, most regions of Georgia had ICUs at significantly over capacity.
On Wednesday, only one region, the counties in and around Columbus, was over capacity with 105% of ICU beds occupied.
With cases on the rise, a mask mandate is back in Atlanta. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms gave the order Tuesday afternoon. That means you’ll have to mask up at any indoor location in the city.
The order comes just a month after the last mask mandate was removed.
The omicron variant is spreading more rapidly than the other variants and that has everyone worried at Christmas.
On Tuesday, some people waited nearly an hour to get a rapid test at a testing site in Chamblee.
Deidra Willie brought her 16-year-old daughter Ryen Evans to the site because Ryen is heading to Charleston to visit her grandmother for Christmas.
“I’m going to South Carolina to see my grandma for Christmas. I’m getting tested to make sure I don’t bring anything to her since she is a little bit older,” Evans said.
Others planning to visit friends and family at Christmas waited in lines for more than 45 minutes to get tested for COVID-19.
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The omicron variant is now the dominant variant in Georgia and doctors say it is much more contagious than the delta variant.
Once Mayor Bottoms looked at the newest COVID-19 numbers, she announced on social media the city was back in the yellow zone and she was reinstating the indoor mask mandate.
Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday he’s keeping in touch with Department of Public Health officials and with hospital CEOs around the state, but so far, he doesn’t plan any additional state actions.
Back at the Chamblee testing site, nurses performed test after test on people waiting in the long line.
Nurse Alexis Parker said the wait times have gone up over the past two weeks.
“With this new variant coming out, and we’ve got the holidays coming, a lot of people are trying to get out and get tested before they visit their families or things like that. So, I think that’s why we’re seeing an increase in the lines,” Parker said.
Atlanta Mayor-elect Andre Dickens put out on social media Monday that he’s got COVID-19, but he did say his symptoms appear to be very mild.
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