ATLANTA - The Georgia Department of Public Health has reported the biggest single-day increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
As of 3 p.m. on Friday, Georgia saw 5,023 new cases, the GDPH reported. The previous record of 4,813 cases was set on July 24 and was due in part to a massive influx of new tests added to the state's data. Friday, the GDPH reported 38,355 news tests were added, the most in two weeks. For the second straight day, the rolling average of confirmed and suspected infections was above the record average of confirmed infections of 3,745 set on July 24.
In July, the state wasn’t reporting suspected infections because few rapid antigen tests were being administered. But state Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey has said Georgia treats both categories as an infection of the COVID-19 respiratory disease, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The daily positivity rate on Friday was at 9.3%, according to the GDPH. The two-week positivity rate average is just below 10% and has been climbing since Thanksgiving.
The 7-day average of infections has gone up 25% in the past two weeks. And the share of molecular PCR tests coming back positive has risen to nearly 12% in Georgia, the worst since early August and a number that suggests there are many more undetected cases in the population.
Hospitalizations also continue to climb. Friday, the GDPH reported 66 more patients, bringing the current number of people hospitalized to 2,366. That is a two-week increase of 566. According to the GDPH, the largest percentage of current hospitalizations are west, northwest, north, and northeast of metro Atlanta.
Not everyone shows symptoms, and most people recover, but a small fraction sicken and die. Hospitalizations have not yet reached their summer heights in Georgia, but beds are filling rapidly with COVID-19 cases. Nearly 2,400 COVID-19 patients were in the hospital Friday, up 32% in the last two weeks.
Hospital executives have said the typical COVID-19 case is less severe now than in earlier months, but that patients with other medical needs are sicker than normal and pushing capacity limits. Statewide, 85% of intensive care beds were filled on Friday, with 11 hospitals statewide saying their intensive care units were full according to the Georgia Coordinating Center, which works to direct patients to hospitals.
“The scary things we see in the hospital data today don’t include the anticipated surge that’s expected as a consequence of Thanksgiving gatherings,” wrote Amber Schmidtke, an epidemiologist who writes a daily report on Georgia’s epidemic. “Next week will most likely be worse as well as the weeks to follow.”
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Schmidtke called on the government to step in with short-term interventions to try to hold down infections, to prevent hospitals from becoming overloaded.
“If we push our healthcare infrastructure to the point of breaking, we will see a lot of people die who could have been saved under normal circumstances — for all sorts of conditions, not just COVID-19,” Schmidtke wrote.
While the week started with no deaths reported on Monday, the GDPH recorded 144 deaths total this week. That brings confirmed coronavirus deaths to 8,922. The GDPH said an additional 803 deaths in the state are suspected to be due to the virus.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
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