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A year of loss: COVID-19 claims the lives of 18,000 Georgians

COVID-19 entered Georgia stealthily in early 2020, infecting people throughout the state before anyone recognized the threat. By the end of March, the pandemic was classified as a mass casualty event. COVID-19 then continued to inflict relentless destruction. Little more than a year after the first lives were lost, Georgia now counts more than 15,900 confirmed COVID-19 deaths and an additional 2,340 deemed probable. The true toll remains hidden, though, because many infections went undetected, particularly in the pandemic’s early days when an unknown number of hospital patients died before they could be tested.

Jan. 21
U.S. announces its first confirmed case, in Washington state. Later, authorities say the virus was already spreading in the U.S. by mid-January.

Feb. 6
First confirmed death in U.S., a 57-year-old California woman, is later traced to this day. The diagnosis had been delayed more than two months because of testing shortages.

Feb. 28
• A woman goes to the emergency department of a Floyd County, Ga., hospital with respiratory symptoms but is sent home. Days later, she returns and is diagnosed with COVID-19.

• In Albany, more than 100 people attend visitation at a funeral home for a 64-year-old, and on Feb. 29 more go to his funeral. Numerous people who attend later are diagnosed with COVID-19, and several deaths are tied to the funeral, making this perhaps the earliest known superspreader event in Georgia.

Feb. 29
Choir members attend a banquet and rehearsal at the Church at Liberty Square in Cartersville, and on March 1 more than 100 choir members take part in a reunion performance. Later, as many as 100 coronavirus cases and four deaths are tied to the church, making this the other known early superspreader event in Georgia.

March 2
State officials say Georgia has its confirmed first cases — a father and son from Fulton County who had returned from Italy in February.

March 3
The woman who had gone to the ER in Floyd County in late February and had been sent home is hospitalized, the first known hospitalization for COVID-19 in Georgia.

At the start, waves of doubt
Doctors recall uncertainty with first case, before deluge overwhelmed them

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March 5
Postmortem testing requested by a coroner and done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that a Bartow County resident died of COVID-19 on this date.

March 10
The Church at Liberty Square cancels services after being notified by the Northwest Georgia Department of Public Health that two people who attended services on March 1 and 8 or took part in the choir had COVID-19.

March 12
Gov. Brian Kemp announces what he says is the state’s first coronavirus death, a 67-year-old who had been hospitalized at Wellstar Kennestone. However, testing later shows a Georgia death a week earlier.

The mounting toll
Patients deteriorate mere hours after going to the hospital

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March 15
Georgia later records on this day what the state believes to be its first COVID-19-related death of a nursing home resident.

March 17
U.S. death toll surpasses 100.

March 19
A 48-year-old woman who worked at Donalsonville Hospital in southwestern Georgia dies at a Tallahassee, Florida, hospital, and a 42-year-old mammogram technician at Piedmont Newnan Hospital is found dead in her Coweta County home. They are believed to be the first Georgia health care workers to die of COVID-19.

March 26
U.S. death toll reaches 1,000.

March 28
State officials say 65 Georgians have died since the outbreak began.

March 31
Georgia reports at least 125 COVID-19 deaths, topping 100 for the first time.

April 1
U.S. for the first time reports more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in a day.

April 6
U.S. death toll surpasses 10,000.

April 7
Athens nursing home acknowledges that 10 residents had died of the coronavirus.

April 8
The state for the first time releases the tally of deaths of long-term care facility residents: 81.

April 16
Georgia reports 985 coronavirus cases, the estimated peak of the pandemic’s first wave in the state.

April 17
• CDC analysis shows that COVID-19 deaths of African Americans are disproportionately high.

• Four poultry workers in rural southwest Georgia died of COVID-19, the company announces.

Unfathomable goodbyes
Dozens of Georgia couples were lost to COVID-19, including Albany residents married 46 years

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April 28
DPH reports that at least 1,030 deaths have been linked to the virus, the first time the state toll has topped 1,000.

April 29
DPH reports that nearly 400 Georgia poultry workers have tested positive.

May 8
All 159 Georgia counties now report confirmed COVID-19 cases.

May 9
Gov. Kemp announces the state has the lowest number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized since reporting began in April.

May 19
A Hancock County nursing home reports 14 new deaths, as the county becomes a new COVID-19 hot spot.

May 27
U.S. death toll surpasses 100,000.

May 31
Georgia reports 2,053 COVID-19 deaths, topping 2,000 for the first time.

June 1
Coronavirus deaths among Georgia long-term care residents top 1,000.

June 4
Once the state’s most dire hot spot, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital announces it has no COVID-19 patients in its main hospital and 42 in Phoebe North.

June 16
Georgia has more than 2,500 coronavirus-related deaths, and state data shows the highest level of infections since April.

June 27
Georgia reports more than 11,000 new cases since June 21, a new one-week record.

June 30
• Though Black people make up about a third of Georgia residents, they account for about half of hospitalizations and deaths through this date.

• Dr. Anthony Fauci tells a Senate committee that a resurgence of COVID-19 could result in the country seeing as many as 100,000 new cases per day.

Their final phone call
Warner Robins woman could only listen as her husband took his last breaths

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July 12
Georgia’s coronavirus death toll is 3,001, topping 3,000 for the first time.

July 24
Hospitals across Georgia report being jammed with patients as they try to manage a new surge of cases. The state has 3,728 confirmed cases based on rolling averages, the peak of the second wave of infections in the state.

July 28
Two Georgia regions run out of ICU beds, and hospitals elsewhere struggle to accommodate patients.

Georgia town mourns
COVID-19 deaths, including beloved long-time coach, devastate Statesboro

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Aug. 3
Georgia World Congress Center reopens with surge beds to treat COVID-19 patients.

Aug. 6
The state records 4,026 coronavirus-related deaths, topping 4,000 for the first time.

A nightmare unfolds
Georgia family endures agony of three sisters, a brother taken by COVID-19

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Aug. 18
• White House Coronavirus Task Force says Georgia reported the highest rate of new cases in the nation for the previous week.

• A state report shows 2,024 deaths in long-term care facilities, topping 2,000 for the first time.

Aug. 24
Georgia reports 5,092 deaths, surpassing 5,000 for the first time.

23 deaths in 21 days
Victims at a long-term care facility include one of oldest Georgians to die of COVID-19

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Aug. 28
DPH reports that a 1-year-old Cobb County boy had died of COVID-19, the state’s youngest victim.

Sept. 6
DPH reports 6,037 coronavirus-related deaths, surpassing 6,000 for the first time.

Sept. 28
The world marks 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Sept. 29
CDC reports that from early August to early September, COVID-19 infections among those ages 18 to 22 increased more than 50%.

Sept. 30
Georgia records 7,021 coronavirus-related deaths, the first time breaking 7,000.

Oct. 16
Georgia surpasses 7,500 recorded coronavirus deaths.

Oct. 20
CDC reports on excess deaths associated with COVID-19 and says the deaths reported so far may underestimate the total impact on mortality.

Absorbing all the anguish
Atlanta pastors, grief counselors feel weight of continuing need for comfort

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Nov. 3
Georgia reports 8,029 confirmed coronavirus deaths, surpassing 8,000 for the first time. The state also adds to its dashboard new data on probable deaths, reporting 450.

Nov. 4
U.S. for the first time records 100,000 new confirmed infections in a single day.

Nov. 15
White House Task Force warns that an increase in test positivity in Georgia is "an early sign of future deterioration."

Nov. 17
Confirmed deaths in Georgia long-term care facilities top 2,800.

Nov. 19
In the United States, the coronavirus is killing one American every minute, CNN reports. With U.S. death toll surpassing 250,000, CDC urges people to stay home for Thanksgiving.

Nov. 23
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport sees its busiest day since the early days of the pandemic.

Dec. 2
Coronavirus patients in U.S. hospitals exceed 100,000 for the first time, nearly double the number from spring during the virus’s deadly first wave, according to The New York Times.

Dec. 3
Georgia DPH reports that the regions around Athens and Valdosta each had just two ICU beds remaining.

Dec. 4
Georgia sets a single-day coronavirus record for new confirmed and probable cases, with a total of 6,376.

Dec. 7
Georgia reports 9,007 confirmed COVID-related deaths, surpassing 9,000 for the first time.

Dec. 8
The number of Georgians hospitalized with COVID-19 is at its highest point since August.

Dec. 11
Georgia reports 3,008 deaths among residents of long-term care facilities, the first time topping 3,000.

Dec. 14
U.S. death toll tops 300,000.

There for every death
Gainesville health care workers contend with what they’ve witnessed

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Dec. 18
The U.S. reports more than 400,000 new cases in a day, CDC reports.

Dec. 24
Georgia reports a record number of coronavirus infections, with 10,346 confirmed and probable cases.

Dec. 29
• State data show 4,437 people hospitalized for COVID-19, more than three times the number hospitalized in mid-October and nearly 40% more than the summer peak.

• Colorado reports the first U.S. case of the highly contagious virus variant first detected in the United Kingdom.

Dec. 31
• Georgia World Congress Center reopens a third time as a relief valve to crowded hospitals.

• Georgia ends 2020 with its worst day for net new confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19.

Jan. 1
U.S. tops 20 million coronavirus cases.

Jan. 5
Georgia announces its first confirmed case of the coronavirus variant first identified in the U.K.

Jan. 6
• U.S. records the deadliest day so far of the pandemic, with more than 3,900 deaths. The record comes one day after the U.S. broke the previous record.

• Georgia officially records more than 10,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths. The state reports another 1,130 probable deaths.

Jan. 7
The U.S. records 4,085 coronavirus deaths in a day, another record.

Jan. 8
• Georgia hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, with some regions of the state having no ICU beds available.

• The U.S. surpasses 300,000 daily new coronavirus cases.

Jan. 11
This is the peak of the pandemic’s third wave in Georgia, with 7,397 new confirmed cases.

Jan. 12
Georgia reports 145 net new confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

Jan. 13
Georgia’s rolling average of daily reported COVID-19 deaths reaches an all-time high. Health authorities report 136 new confirmed deaths and five others deemed probable.

Jan. 14
Georgia reports 141 net new confirmed deaths.

Jan. 15
A CDC report warns that the more transmissible variant virus could spread rapidly and become the dominant one in the U.S. as soon as March.

Devastation of one day
Valdosta hospital loses nurse, six others in grueling 24 hours

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Jan. 16
Georgia’s death toll tops 11,000. In the previous 10 days, the state has confirmed nearly 1,000 additional deaths.

Jan. 19
The U.S. COVID-19 death toll surpasses 400,000.

Jan. 21
The state surpasses 700,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, an increase of about 100,000 in just two weeks. It also has five confirmed cases of the variant from the U.K.

Jan. 24
The U.S. passes 25 million confirmed cases.

Jan. 31
January proves to be Georgia’s deadliest month to date, with 2,698 additional deaths confirmed. That brings the state’s total to 12,570.

Feb. 1
DPH confirms 19 people in nine Georgia counties have been infected with the variant from the U.K., though experts say they believe the actual number is exponentially higher.

Feb. 4
The state surpasses 13,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Feb. 8

• The number of confirmed Georgia cases of the variant from the U.K. increases to 37.

• Georgia officially records more than 10,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths. The state reports another 1,130 probable deaths.

Feb. 12
Georgia reports 187 additional deaths, the biggest one-day increase since the start of the pandemic. The number of U.K. variant cases identified increases to 45.

Feb. 16
Georgia reports 14,175 COVID-19 deaths, topping 14,000 for the first time.

Feb. 19
Georgia tops 800,000 confirmed cases and reports 173 additional deaths.

Feb. 22
The U.S. death toll tops 500,000.

Feb. 24
DPH says 119 cases of the variant identified in the U.K. have been detected in Georgia.

Feb. 26
Georgia surpasses 15,000 coronavirus deaths, with 15,007 reported.

Feb. 28
Georgia long-term care facilities report 225 additional COVID-19 deaths in February, down from more than 1,100 in January. New cases at the facilities also plunge.

March 5
• While Georgia deaths continue to decline, the state still has one of the nation’s worst death rates, topped only by four other states, a White House report shows.

• DPH confirms the first case of the coronavirus variant that emerged in South Africa. The case was detected in Henry County. The number of cases of the variant originally discovered in the U.K. increases to 155.

March 15
Georgia opens up vaccinations to another 3.3 million residents, as the state races against the more contagious and potentially more deadly variants.