GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. - One metro Atlanta county is once again requiring all employees to wear masks indoors and is urging visitors to county facilities to do the same as COVID-19 cases in Georgia climb once again.
Gwinnett County said the new policy will go into effect on Monday. Officials said the change comes as the COVID-19 Community Level grew to its highest level in months. That is determined by hospital bed usage, hospital admissions and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in the county.
"For two and a half years, our employees have adapted to provide running water, safe roads, emergency response and other critical services to residents," said Gwinnett County Administrator Glenn Stephens. "It is imperative that we keep our workforce safe to continue to deliver the superior quality services our residents expect and deserve."
Stephens said the policy change is meant to protect employees.
Mask requirements for courtroom visitors will be at the discretion of the presiding judge.
As of Wednesday, the two-week average for new daily COVID-19 cases in Georgia was above 3,300 for the first time since mid-February, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Hospitalizations in the state also grew to more than 1,200, something not seen since the start of the start of March, according to the GDPH.
New subvariants, labeled BA.4 and BA.5, are offshoots of the omicron strain that has been responsible for nearly all the virus spread in the U.S. and are even more contagious than their predecessors.
Currently, BA.5 makes up 65% of new cases nationwide, the CDC said. It can infect people who have already had the virus, including those who are infected.
The CDC said Georgia is 46th in the nation when it comes to the number of people who have had the COVID booster and 44th for individuals who have been double boosted.
With the new variants spreading, experts advise people to test before any large gatherings or visits with high-risk people.