The Georgia Department of Public Health in the past week added four more COVID-19-related deaths to Barrow County’s tally, bringing the total of deaths among county residents since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to 171, with five additional “probable” deaths due to the disease.

It’s not clear when each of the deaths occurred, as the state has frequently noted a delay of up to two weeks in reporting and confirming deaths. As of Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 28, 22,228 COVID deaths had been confirmed across the state, and the national death toll stood at just under 692,000.

The latest death totals come as Georgia and Barrow County have continued to see a recent dip in cases from the latest peak in early September. The state confirmed another 35 cases in the county Tuesday with a seven-day rolling average of 34.6. Area hospitalizations also continued to decline, with Northeast Georgia Health System reporting 219 confirmed-positive patients across its facilities as of Tuesday afternoon. That number included 13 patients at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow in Winder and 57 at NGMC Braselton.

Barrow’s rate of fully-vaccinated residents ticked up slightly in the past week to 38%, while 43% have received at least one dose. Those numbers still trail the statewide figures of 47% fully vaccinated and 54% with at least one dose.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) are recommending COVID vaccine booster shots for individuals who received a Pfizer-BioNTech primary series at least six months ago.

Those guidance for receiving boosters includes:

•recommended for people 65 years and older and residents in long-term care settings.

•recommended for people ages 50-64 with underlying medical conditions.

•People ages 18–49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster based on their individual benefits and risks.

•People ages 18-64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting may receive a booster, based on their individual benefits and risks.

Only the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized as a booster dose, and the above recommendations will only apply to individuals who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for their primary series, according to a news release.

“DPH continues to stress the importance of vaccination for all Georgians aged 12 and older,” officials said. “Vaccination is our best tool to protect lives and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our state.”

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