COVID-19 infections rising in Georgia since recent lows

The number of COVID-19 cases is rising in Georgia, although infections in the state are not climbing as fast as those nationwide.

Even with relatively few infections reported Monday, the state’s seven-day average is close to 1,300, more than 10% above the recent bottom on Oct. 8. The number of people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 has also been rising for a week, crossing back above 1,300 on Monday.

“Things are not going well for Georgia,” Amber Schmidtke, an epidemiologist who writes a daily analysis of Georgia’s number, wrote Monday.

She and other experts fear another jump like the one seen in June, in part because cases and hospitalizations never fell as low as they did in the spring.

One issue is that Georgia is still not including probable cases in its daily reports. Those cases are mostly diagnosed from rapid antigen tests, and many other states are counting them as positives. Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said recently that the state is working on a plan to report probable cases daily.

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In numbers released Monday, the state Department of Public Health said Georgia had recorded 1,167 probable cases in the past week.

A ray of light for Georgia in the darkening picture is that the positivity rate has stayed level over the last two weeks at just above 6%, even as the number of DNA-based tests rose modestly, on average.

Georgia’s transmission rates still remain below those being seen nationwide, with the state ranking 35th per capita among states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico over the last two weeks, according to data collected by The Associated Press.

The number of counties that the state lists as “emerging counties of interest,” where the respiratory illness may be spreading the most rapidly, rose from 43 last week to 56 this week. That included an increase in the number of suburban Atlanta counties on the list from six to 11, with Cobb County staying on the list. Fulton County dropped off that list this week, while DeKalb and Gwinnett counties stayed off it. Also on the list are Bibb County including Macon, Lowndes County including Valdosta, Whitfield County including Dalton and Columbia County in suburban Augusta.

Georgia has recorded more than 340,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus since March. As of Monday, the state had confirmed 7,657 COVID-19 deaths, remaining on pace for 10,000 this year.

While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.

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