DECATUR, Ga. (Atlanta Now News at 10) — COVID cases are up and so are the questions about variants and whether booster shots are helping. A local doctor shared what you need to know now and for the foreseeable future.

Wayne Patterson went to the Peachtree Immediate Care in Decatur for a routine visit and was all too happy to show off his vaccination card. “I’ve had my COVID shot and my booster shot, so I’m certified, you know what I mean,” Patterson said. “You still got people out there who haven’t been vaccinated, you know what I mean? So, it’s still out there, but you still have to be careful,” he said, referring to the spike in COVID cases.

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Like countless other doctors, Dr. Daniel Ralston, a family medicine doctor at the location, has had a front row seat to the COVID-19 pandemic, watching the virus take a deadly toll and then mutate into the many variants contributing to the latest surge, including BA.4 and BA.5.

“BA.5 makes up about 60% of cases right now. BA.4 is about 20%,” Ralston said, explaining how the variants are more transmissible, spreading much easier than the original strain.

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He also explained what likely led to the latest surge in COVID cases. “The latest spike probably is attributed to travel from July 4th and then parties from July 4th,” he said. He says hospitalizations have increased over the last month, but the death toll has not, which he attributes to vaccines and booster shots. The cold-like symptoms and loss of taste and smell are largely the same, and the variants seem to be less severe.

“The variants are probably going to continue to happen for the foreseeable future,” said Ralston. “The CDC recommends everyone who’s completed the primary series of Moderna or Pfizer to receive at least one booster, and if it’s been more than six months and you are over the age of 50 or you are over the age of 12 or you are immunocompromised, they recommend a second booster as well.”

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He also recommends washing your hands, wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings.