Georgia’s COVID-19 hospitalizations drop by a third, state’s data shows

Current statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 dropped by about a third in the last two weeks, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of data published by the Georgia Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency.

The decline is significant, but it does not mean that infections are down since Georgia began to re-open at the end of April. There is about a two week lag between when a person is infected, shows symptoms, is admitted to the hospital, gets tested and receives the results.

A press release from Gov. Brian Kemp said there were 986 patients currently hospitalized as of 1 p.m. Tuesday, which was an important milestone for the state. It was the lowest number of patients hospitalized since hospitals started reporting data to GEMA on April 8, it said.

“We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas. What we’re doing is working,” Kemp said on The Erick Erickson Show on WSB Atlanta’s News & Talk.

An AJC analysis found hospitalizations for the novel coronavirus stood at just above 1,025 as of 7 p.m. Monday, according to GEMA’s latest daily situation report. It was 1,500 as of May 2, the date that GEMA first reported the measure publicly. Prior to that, the agency was publishing daily cumulative hospitalization figures.

The AJC is now tracking current hospitalizations on its COVID-19 data dashboard to give readers a clearer picture of coronavirus in Georgia. The tracker uses GEMA's daily figures, which are based on 7 p.m. reports.

»NEW DASHBOARD: The AJC's redesigned page of real-time charts tracking the virus

Kemp downplayed criticisms in recent weeks that confusing or incorrect coronavirus data published by the Georgia Department of Public Health have harmed the public’s trust in the information the state is releasing.

“It’s really not a big issue. People trust the data. I certainly do,” Kemp said.

GEMA began to publish current COVID hospitalizations on its daily situation report to give the public a better idea of the availability of hospital resources, a spokesperson for the agency said. It gets its figures from DPH. It does not include those hospitalized who are being investigated for suspected novel coronavirus infections.

Experts agree that Georgia's April lockdown slowed the spread of the virus successfully. They also expect cases and deaths to rise in the coming weeks now that the state's shelter-in-place order has been lifted and more people are venturing from the safety of their homes.