Georgia reports spike in new COVID-19 cases, but that's not the whole story

Friday's headline in Georgia could read "Georgia sees the most coronavirus cases in Georgia since Labor Day," and it would be correct, but it also wouldn't be the whole story. The spike in cases is also a spike in reported tests.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, the Georgia Department of Public Health said there have been 347,759 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the state, which is a 2,224 increase over Thursday's numbers. But in the same release, the GDPH said 40,089 new tests were added to the data set in the last 24 hours which is the highest number of daily tests reported since Aug. 8.

Experts say to look at the averages and not the daily cases. So, looking at the 7-day average for new confirmed coronavirus cases, Thursday’s average was 1,328, and Friday's average was up to 1,416 with the spike in new tests. The last time the 7-day average was above 1,400 was on September 24. That number actually dropped during the following weeks before slowly climbing back again beginning around the first of the month.

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With a large number of tests being released in a single day, the number of positive cases actually was second-lowest this week and third lowest in the past two weeks with 5.55% of the test returning as positive. That is nearly half the total average of 10.21% and well below the running 7-day average of 7.09% and the running 30-day average of 6.59%.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said about 12,000 of the cases reported today are all from one facility in metro Atlanta that is catching up on reporting its numbers for the week.

The bottom line is that in mid-September, the number of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations saw a two-week dip and at the start of the month, the numbers have been trending upward. But Friday's big numbers are a result of a spike of new reported tests and not necessarily an immediate sign of a significant spread of the virus. Experts will be looking at the data coming in over the next few days to confirm that.

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This article has been updated from a previous version to reflect new data released by the Georgia Department of Public Health.