Dear Houston County residents,
Our communities are currently experiencing a rapid rise in individuals testing positive for COVID-19. In the first six months of the pandemic, Houston County had a total of 80 lab confirmed cases. Since Sept. 1, we have had over 400 cases, and in the past two weeks, we have had over 200 confirmed cases. We need everyone to continue to take the fight against COVID-19 seriously. If we all do our part, together we can help slow the spread in our community.
On Nov. 16, we reached over 500 positive COVID-19 cases in Houston County., which also has an overall COVID positivity rate of greater than 5%. The rate shows the percent of tests that were positive in residents over the last two weeks of data collection. This rate is a key marker in determining how rapidly the virus is spreading within out county, with 5% representing a threshold of greater concern. Higher rates of virus transmission in the county increase the risk for all members of our communities.
Houston County rates have steadily increased in the past few weeks:
- Oct. 4-10: 2% to <3%
- Oct.11-17: 3% to <5%
- Oct.18-24:: 7% to <10%
- Oct.25-31: 15+%
Higher rates of virus transmission in the community increase the risk for all members of our community, but especially for those at high risk for severe illness and death. Our seniors living in our community and in long-term care facilities are among our most vulnerable. Despite the aggressive action to limit infections taken by facilities, as cases in our community continue to rise the residents and staff in these facilities are put at serious risk.
Local schools are moving to more restrictive learning models to prevent virus spread in school environments. Thresholds for moving to a different learning model are established by the State Department of Education, and rely heavily on positivity rates within the county. While necessary, these changes have significant impacts on students, school staff, families, employers, and the community as a whole.
For these reasons, Houston County commissioners urge you to help protect our communities.
Board Chair, Eric Johnson, emphasized the importance of community vigilance and mitigation strategies:
“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases continue to climb even higher. Houston County is fortunate to have strong and knowledgeable teams of experts in the medical field, public health sector and emergency preparedness working together. ... All of us, need to continue to work together on slowing the spread of COVID-19. Not only does our public health depend on it but our economy does too.”
Reducing community spread is critical for successfully preventing COVID-19 infections and deaths. The most effective ways to reduce the spread of the virus are to:
- Limit in-person gatherings,
- Wash hands frequently,
- Maintain social distance of at least 6 feet, and
- Wear a face mask every time you are around people from outside your household.