Georgia reports record number of COVID-19 cases on Christmas Eve

Governor Brian P. Kemp provides updates on COVID-19 in Georgia at a press conference at Grady Hospital on December 17, 2020.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Governor Brian P. Kemp provides updates on COVID-19 in Georgia at a press conference at Grady Hospital on December 17, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Georgia reported a record number of coronavirus cases on Christmas Eve, and health experts are expecting those figures to rise even higher given the number of families traveling for the holidays.

The Georgia Department of Public Health recorded 10,346 net new confirmed and probable cases of the virus on Thursday, setting a new daily record. Of those, 7,959 were detected by molecular PCR tests and 2,387 from rapid antigen tests, both diagnostic tests that can detect the virus.

The state also reported 53 confirmed new deaths attributed to COVID-19 and 3,863 hospitalizations.

Georgia has seen a sharp increase in confirmed new cases since Thanksgiving, and a particularly steep surge over the past week.

The latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report showed more than nine out of 10 Georgia counties had moderate to high rates of spread, and 83% of the state’s counties were in the red zone.

“This surge must be met with aggressive public mitigation inclusive of safe public options, like outdoor dining,” stated the report, dated Dec. 20. “And clear personal behavior change messages to ensure as many Americans as possible can survive to be immunized and protected from severe disease and fatalities over the ensuing weeks.”

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The seven-day rolling average of confirmed and antigen-positive cases is currently about 93% greater than Georgia’s previous surge in July.

Health experts fear the country will see even higher case totals in the weeks ahead, because it’ll take time for infections triggered by holiday gatherings to appear in state totals. It typically takes a few days for people exposed to the virus to begin showing symptoms, and another few days for test results to come through.

Earlier this week, Gov. Brian Kemp urged Georgians to hold virtual holiday celebrations rather than meet in person.

“I know that many Georgians are anxious to spend time with their loved ones, and believe you me, I am as well,” the governor said at a news conference at Emory University. “But we are also pleading with Georgians to do the right thing and stay vigilant. Do not let your guard down and choose to be part of the solution and not the problem.”

The state has recorded nearly 619,000 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases and more than 10,500 deaths since March.

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