I’d like to start today off with a reminder that there are just 10 days left to register to vote for the November 3rd general election. October 5th (the deadline) sounds like a far-off date until you put it in that frame. Please register or confirm your voter registration by visiting vote411.org. It’s a nonpartisan tool to route you to the right state and fill out the forms you need. You can also register for an absentee ballot. I did both for my new state today and it took about 5 minutes. With the pandemic, I know there is heightened safety concern this time around and we should expect things to be harder than in years past due to social distancing and reduced staffing (the Georgia Secretary of State’s office has information on becoming a poll worker if you feel called to do so). So as with everything we do in a pandemic, we need to think ahead about our plan for completing this task and the steps we will take to minimize risk. Also think through issues like getting time off from work or arranging childcare. Consider the following ways to vote and risk mitigation:
Absentee ballots: if you have health conditions that might make a COVID-19 infection more severe, you might want to consider an absentee ballot. You can mail these in (do so early!) or drive them to ballot collection boxes. This is the safest option.
Vote early: the crowds are generally smaller during the early voting opportunities compared to election day. Make sure to wear your mask, keep your 6 feet distance, and use hand sanitizer and/or wash your hands after using the touch screens.
Vote on Election Day: the crowds will be bigger on November 3rd, but that just means more planning. The same things apply as when you’re voting early, but you may also need to think about what you need to stand in line for a while. That may include water or a snack. If you’re someone who has a hard time standing for long periods of time, it might be a good idea to bring an easily folded chair. Prepare for the weather of the day.
Be an informed voter: the more research you can do before getting to the polling booth, the easier and faster your voting process will go, which may limit your risk of exposure too. Plus, it’s just a really good idea to be well-informed about the candidates and issues on your ballot. You can visit this nonpartisan resource to see a sample of the ballot you’ll use when you vote. You can look up the candidates, their views, any referendums, etc. Make sure to vote all the way down the ballot, including local/municipal races. All politics is local as is public health.
It doesn’t matter to me how you vote or who you vote for. But I would ask that you do participate in this civic responsibility. Among all the various issues facing our country and state, the leaders we choose will have important impacts on the way we confront the pandemic in the future.
It was an average day for testing output, with 22,678 new test results submitted through electronic laboratory reporting (ELR). Of those, 5.8% were positive. Ninety percent of today’s newly identified cases were reported through ELR and only 8% of them were backdated prior to the 14-day window. So this is a good day for data reporting and that 5.8% is a trustworthy number. It’s also really, really close to the 5% goal set by the World Health Organization. A reminder, we don’t get to declare victory by getting under that goal for one day. Instead, we need to sustain that low percent positive rate. Another thing to keep in mind is that these results are only for the diagnostic PCR test and do not include the rapid antigen results. This could impact our data on cases, test output, percent positive, etc. But the state does not currently provide that information to the public for us to consider. In the meantime, you can see how our percent positive rate has changed over time.
It was an average day for cases too, with a net increase of 1468 since yesterday. The updated statewide total is now 312,514. Nonrural counties contributed the most with 672 new cases followed by rural counties with 547.
Below is the updated 7-day case rate per 100,000 graph. The dark line is the statewide average. Both rural and nonrural counties are above the state average and the Atlanta metro is below the state average. The trend is decreasing for all county types except the Atlanta counties of Fulton and DeKalb.
Pay attention to the fact that our case curve increased a lot faster than it is decreasing. It’s an important thing for us to remember as we consider different risky exposures. It is really hard and takes a long time for us to decrease case rate, but it can escalate very quickly. Our declines are exciting, but we still haven’t reached the level of disease transmission that existed prior to the summer surge. So stay vigilant.
The number of people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 has decreased to 1360 (from 1371, yesterday). New hospital admissions for COVID-19 have also plateaued and decreased. However, there is a small increase in the trend line as we look at new ICU admissions (see below).
We’ve seen plateaus and increases that precede further declines before (see the range between 19Aug - 02Sep). So this could be another example of that noise in the data. As of today, there are three hospital regions that have >90% ICU usage: regions E, H, and N.
Today there were 52 newly reported deaths, bringing the statewide total to 6874. And this is a mid-range day for us. Nonrural and rural counties each contributed 40% of today’s newly reported deaths (n = 21, each). Below you can see how the death rate per 100,000 graph looks now for each county type. Like the case rate graph, the dark line is the statewide average.
The nonrural county line is hard to see because it tracks closely with the state average and is often obscured. Atlanta and Atlanta suburb counties are below the state average. However, the death rate in rural counties is now twice as high as the statewide average.
To summarize, it was an average day for all the metrics I track in this newsletter. There may be a small increase in ICU admissions, but we need more time to know for sure. Case rate adjusted for population continues to decline (a good thing), but the death rate for the state is leveling off and it is disproportionately worse in rural counties.
Have a safe, socially distanced weekend. I’ll be back on Sunday with the week in review.
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My Ph.D. is in Medical Microbiology and Immunology. I've worked at places like Creighton University, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and Mercer University School of Medicine. All thoughts are my professional opinion and should not be considered medical advice.