Happy New Year! Today’s newsletter is going to be Georgia focused. The first half will deal with what is happening in the most recent week. The second half will be an accounting of how far we’ve come and how much we’ve lost in 2021.
This week in Georgia
This is the week that the Delta/Omicron wave became the biggest one to hit Georgia to date. I hesitate to call this “the big one” because we have no idea what’s coming behind the latest variant. But this is undoubtedly the biggest disease threat that Georgia has experienced to date. The CDC has recently changed the isolation guidance following a positive COVID-19 test which is more or less an acknowledgment that Omicron is going to cause widespread infection. And rather than trying to stop that transmission of disease because there isn’t the political will to do so, they are trying to help industries cope with the fallout of massive illness.
The doomsday preparations that we all did in March 2020 were a good practice for what we might experience in January 2022. Because when this many people get sick at once, we should anticipate that everyday life is going to face significant disruption. As much as we have been hearing about supply chain problems this year, it’s possible that with this many people sick at once we will see additional problems. It’s a good idea to make sure you have a month’s worth of prescription medications and other necessities on hand (if you can afford to do so) and to pick up a reasonable amount of toilet paper - get enough for 4 weeks, not 4 years.
Here’s where things are for Georgia this week compared to where we’ve been. In the most recent week, cases rose 153%, hospital admissions rose 62%, ICU admissions rose 6% and deaths rose 27%.
Test volume (blue lines in graphs below) for PCR and antigen testing is on the rise but it clearly isn’t enough because test positivity is rising dramatically. In the past 2 weeks, PCR test positivity rose from 5.7% to 32.6%. For antigen testing, positivity rate rose from 4.2% to 20.7% in the past two weeks.
What we’re most likely seeing is the effects of Thanksgiving gatherings that built momentum for the virus that continued to spread leading up to Christmas. Christmas gatherings will likely spur case growth even further. And New Years Eve celebrations won’t help either. Part of this is because of WHO is getting sick. Cases are rising for all age groups. But the greatest proportion of our cases comes from young adults, aged 18-29.
Some who see this graph will say, “who cares if it’s infecting young adults?” After all, this is a disease that mostly harms the elderly, right? Well not necessarily anymore. Between lower vaccination rates among young adults and greater rates of exposure due to in person gatherings, school environments or being essential workers themselves, young adults are also our highest number of people needing COVID-19 hospitalization, for two weeks in a row now.
The graphic below shows the way Georgia’s hospital regions are divided in the map. These country groupings are also used for the graph on the right. The graph shows 7-day case rate per 100,000 for each of Georgia’s 14 hospital regions. You’ll notice that all of them are rising, but the biggest rise since mid-December is for regions N and D (Northwest Atlanta suburbs and Atlanta metro, respectively). When all regions rise like this, we know from past experience to brace for disruption to the healthcare system.
The other thing that’s really interesting or concerning about recent data trends is that there is disproportionate harm for African-American populations.
Just a reminder that it’s not too late to get vaccinated, and it is definitely a good idea to get boosted if you haven’t done so already.