ATLANTA - The state's top health official is urging Georgians to get a flu shot this year to prevent "twindemics" of influenza and the coronavirus.
Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey the fight against the coronavirus is far from over and that Georgians face another potential threat.
"Never has it been more important to get a flu shot than this year," she said. "We are trying to prevent twindemics."
Georgia Department of Public Health commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey and Gov. Brian Kemp hold a news conference October 7, 2020 at the State Capitol.
Gov. Brian Kemp, joined by Toomey, held a news conference on Wednesday morning at the State Capitol regarding Georgia's fight against the coronavirus. It was the governor's first coronavirus briefing since August.
Kemp touted “great progress” in easing Georgia’s COVID-19 epidemic, with newly reported cases and the number of hospitalized patients falling to levels last seen in June.
"We said that we needed Georgians to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. And I'm very proud of Georgians for doing the right thing," Kemp said.
But some numbers could look different in coming days as Georgia begins daily publication of results of rapid antigen tests, and the state remains on track, at least for now, to record 10,000 deaths this year from the respiratory illness.
“We’ve been able to keep businesses open, most kids have been able to return to schools, and people have been able to go about their lives, in a smart responsible way. But that is only sustainable if we continue to do our part moving forward,” Kemp said.
Gov. Brian Kemp holds a news conference to update the public on Georgia's fight against the coronavirus from the State Capitol Wednesday, October 7, 2020.
Kemp has pushed a largely voluntary approach that has allowed businesses to open and eschewed a statewide mask mandate, despite intense criticism of those stances during the summer, when Georgia was recording the highest per capita number of new infections nationwide. The state is now 28th in new cases per capita in the past 14 days, according to figures kept by The Associated Press, but is still recording twice as many cases as it was at a low point in May.
Georgia is running about 1,200 new cases per day, but that doesn’t include rapid antigen tests that have been growing in popularity. Because those tests are not as reliable as the molecular tests, Toomey says the GDPH will not count positives from antigen tests as confirmed cases. But it is counting them as probable cases, alongside cases where someone is known to be exposed and develops symptoms but never is tested and cases where a death certificate lists COVID-19 as a cause of death or contributor to death.
As of Tuesday afternoon, GPDH reported 324,650 cases and 7,229 deaths since the start of the pandemic. The 7-day average of cases is 1,224.6. Georgia has conducted more than 3 million COVID-19 tests with a 10% positive rate. The rolling 7-day average is 7.1% positive.
According to the Tuesday report, over the last two week period there has been a drop in not only the average daily increase in newly reported deaths in Georgia, but also a drop in average daily increase in newly confirmed cases from the previous two weeks.
The governor stressed the importance of following his "Four Things for Fall" initiative: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, follow the state guidelines.
Kemp also touted economic progress, noting that the Georgia Department of Economic Development had granted incentives to businesses that in the three months ended Sept. 30 had announced more than 10,000 jobs and $3.71 billion in investment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.