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COVID numbers flatten out in Putnam

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There were some positive signs this week in the fight against COVID-19 in Putnam County as the overall numbers dipped and flattened out some, resulting in the North Central Health District to remove the “area of concern” flag from the county.

Overall, the number of new confirmed cases dropped to 16 this week, down from 29 last week. Putnam now has had 871 positive cases of the coronavirus with 28 deaths reported and 73 reported as hospitalized.

With flu season quickly approaching, there have been signs of real hope possibly on the way in the form of vaccinations.

According to a report from the Capitol Beat News Service, results of final-phase testing for a COVID-19 vaccine partly taking place in Atlanta show nearly 95% effectiveness at preventing the virus, marking a huge breakthrough in the push to end the global pandemic, Emory University researchers announced.

Additionally, Capitol Beat reported the vaccine produced by the pharmaceutical company Moderna and given to more than 700 volunteers in Atlanta since August is the second candidate vaccine to clear major testing hurdles over the past week, after the company Pfizer announced last Monday its vaccine has shown 90% effectiveness.

Both vaccines have progressed through trial phases enough to be on the cusp of receiving approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency-use authorization by year’s end, Capitol Beat reported.

However, Gov. Brian Kemp is not taking any chances with the encouraging news when his office announced the governor is extending coronavirus-driven social distancing and sanitization restrictions for businesses, gatherings and long-term elderly care facilities in Georgia based on a report from Capitol Beat.

Kemp has signed an executive order, effective at midnight Nov. 16 and running through the end of the month, leaving the current set of restrictions in place.

“As COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations rise across the country, [Georgia Commissioner of Public Health] Dr. [Kathleen] Toomey and I are asking Georgians to remain vigilant in our fight against COVID-19,” the governor said.

Also, Capitol Beat reported that a statewide public health emergency first declared in Georgia last March allows Kemp to continue issuing executive orders addressing COVID-19.

In the report, Capitol Beat said the latest order keeps in place a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people in Georgia and continues to make wearing a mask voluntary at the statewide level rather than mandatory. Cities and counties have been allowed to impose their own mask mandates since August so long as their local requirements do not apply to businesses and residences.

President-elect Joe Biden has pledged to institute a nationwide mask mandate on his first day in office in January.