Georgia COVID death toll officially tops 10,000

Georgia’s confirmed coronavirus death toll passed 10,000 on Wednesday, when the state Department of Public Health reported 10,035 deaths since the pandemic began.

According to the Jan. 6 figures, Georgia’s confirmed coronavirus cases stood at 602,796; 43,629 hospitalizations; and 7,605 ICU admissions.

The state Department of Public Health’s final Dec. 31, 2020, report had recorded 9,872 COVID deaths, along with 566,676 confirmed cases. Georgia reported 9,889 confirmed deaths on Jan. 1.

The news comes after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Dec. 11 that the combined confirmed and suspected deaths passed 10,000.

On Dec. 29, 2019, the first cases of unknown, pneumonia-like illnesses were reported to the World Health Organization. One year later, the illness that has come to be known as the coronavirus has claimed more than 1.8 million lives around the world, reaching every continent and wreaking havoc and despair in its wake.

According to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, which has tracked the pandemic since it began, more than 87,150,000 cases have been reported worldwide. The U.S. continues to lead the world in the number of cases — with more than 21.2 million — and deaths, with more than 360,000.

India is second in cases, with 10.3 million, while Brazil is second in deaths, with more than 198,000.

The cases that were reported one year ago occurred between Dec. 12-29, in Wuhan, China.

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Georgia is planning to add people 65 and older, police officers and other first responders to the current group of people eligible for COVID-19 vaccination, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced.

In a news release, Kemp said seniors, law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders would be added to the current Phase 1A group eligible for vaccination. This planned expansion could begin within two weeks, if the state can obtain enough doses.

At present, Phase 1A includes health care workers and staff and residents of long-term care homes. People over 65 alone make up 1.5 million people in Georgia, meaning a substantial ramp up in supply would be required to vaccinate the entire senior population.

“Following the expert guidance of [Georgia Public Health Director Dr. Kathleen] Toomey, the CDC, and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, Georgia will move to expand Phase 1A vaccination criteria within the next two weeks to include the elderly, law enforcement officers, firefighters and first responders — provided the state continues to receive adequate vaccine supplies,” Kemp said in a news release.

“We will continue to monitor the administration efforts of our public health workers and partners in the private sector, and the supply chain of both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines to ensure eligible Georgians are vaccinated without delay.”

Vaccinations of some first responders and health care workers started in Georgia earlier this month under the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed program, which partnered with the pharmaceutical industry to develop vaccines for COVID-19 in less than one year.