New year brings surge of new COVID cases in Georgia

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Georgia ended 2020 with its worst ever day for net new confirmed and suspected cases of COVID-19 at 11,709, and the state started the new year with what ranks as its second-worst daily report.

On Friday, the first day of the new year, the state Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 11,137 net new confirmed and probable coronavirus infections.

Georgia is facing its third and worst wave of the coronavirus, which has brought record cases and hospitalizations. The flood of new cases reported New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are in part likely an artifact of some backlog over Christmas, as well as a raging epidemic.

DPH on Friday also reported 17 confirmed deaths and another seven considered “probable” COVID-19 deaths. Statewide hospitalizations were down slightly Friday at 4,563 COVID patients, compared to 4,578 the day before.

The state rushed this week to reopen its field hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta to act as a relief valve to overloaded hospitals, taking sick COVID-19 patients who need hospital care but not intensive care.

On Thursday, Piedmont Healthcare announced that some of its 11 hospitals were postponing surgeries requiring overnight or intensive care stays. Piedmont said emergent and outpatients surgeries are continuing.

But the worst may yet be to come. With Georgia setting records for new cases now and little evidence of a downward trend in sight, experts fear the state hasn’t seen its peak in cases or hospitalizations.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s top doctor, pleaded with Georgians not to hold large gatherings over New Year’s Eve and to follow public health guidelines of wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands.

The last several days provided some glimmers of hope as the state ramped up its vaccination of health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care homes.

As of New Year’s Eve, the state and other providers have given 76,742 vaccine doses. Pfizer has shipped 178,425 doses to Georgia and Moderna has shipped 197,900, state data show. Availability varies greatly across the state.

Kemp’s office said Wednesday it plans to add seniors older than 65, law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders to the list of people eligible for the vaccine in the weeks ahead, depending on the availability of extra doses.