Georgia reported more than 32,000 confirmed and rapid antigen test positive cases of the virus for the week ended Saturday, an AJC analysis of state data shows. The number of people currently hospitalized in Georgia — 2,606 as of Tuesday — is at its highest point since August.
The White House task force, as it has for weeks, urged states to reduce capacity or close public and private places where masking is impossible, such as restaurants and bars.
New cases of coronavirus in Georgia have been rising steadily for two months.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Gov. Brian Kemp expressed concern about the rise in cases. He and the state’s top doctor, Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey, urged Georgians to wear masks, wash hands, avoid crowds and get a flu shot.
But Kemp did not announce any new coronavirus restrictions on gatherings or businesses or a mask mandate as most states now have. Kemp’s executive orders have remained largely unchanged since the summer.
“We have been able to successfully balance both lives and livelihoods,” Kemp said. “Georgia businesses have been allowed to resume operations and people have been allowed to exercise their constitutional freedoms. Not every state has taken this approach, and my plea to Georgians is this — to keep Georgia open, to keep hardworking people employed, to keep food on the table for thousands, please follow the guidance we’ve been preaching for months.”
Though he thinks most Georgians followed the state’s advice over Thanksgiving, the governor said some let down their guard. Kemp said the guidance, if people will follow it, works.
“We’ve just got to all make sure we double down on that, even if it’s just for a couple weeks to get over this hump,” Kemp said.
Governor Brian P. Kemp takes off his mask before speaking at a press conference at the state capital on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2020. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Credit: Steve Schaefer
Credit: Steve Schaefer
Test positivity rising
Georgia remains in the COVID-19 red zone for cases and returned to the task force’s red zone for test positivity last week. Georgia now ranks 25th for test positivity, up from 37th a week ago. The current seven-day rolling average positivity rate among PCR tests of 12% indicates Georgia isn’t testing enough people, as health experts want the number to be below 5%.
Total PCR tests reported declined last week.
“Not only are things getting worse, we are doing less testing, not more,” said Amber Schmidtke, a public health researcher and former Mercer University professor who tracks Georgia’s epidemic on her widely read blog. “You can’t find disease if you are not looking for it.”
The White House Coronavirus Task Force said Georgia ranked 47th, or fifth-best out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for the rate of new cases for the seven days that ended Friday.
But the case figures used by the task force to compare Georgia’s standing only include confirmed cases as determined by molecular PCR tests and not rapid antigen tests. Some states combine PCR and antigen positives in reports of daily cases as recommended by the White House task force.
On that basis, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, clouding the public’s view of the state of Georgia’s pandemic relative to other states.
Vaccines coming, supply limited
As of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Georgia reported 5,716 confirmed and antigen positive cases of COVID-19. Of those 3,709 were confirmed by PCR tests. The state also reported 20 confirmed deaths.
To date, the state has reported 452,369 confirmed cases, 59,898 antigen positive cases and 9,027 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Another 846 deaths are listed as probable COVID-19 deaths.
During the press conference, Kemp said the state will begin to receive the first shipments of a limited number coronavirus vaccine doses in the next week to 10 days. But he warned the supply of inoculations will be reserved at first for the most vulnerable, including nursing home residents and health workers.
“Our first shipments will not be anywhere close enough for anyone in our state to stop following the same public health guidance that we’ve had in place for many months,” the governor said.
For that reason, Kemp said, Georgians must step up.
“The general public will not be able to be vaccinated for months,” he said.