A quick bit of housekeeping. Starting this week, I’m going to reduce the frequency of these newsletters. So instead of publishing on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, I’ll instead be publishing on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.
The graph below shows how four of our big metrics for tracking the COVID-19 pandemic are tracking over time. Cases are represented by the blue line and correspond with the left y-axis. All other metrics correspond with the right y-axis. The reason I graph all of these things together is so that we can see the way these things trend together (or differently) over time.
This week, cases rose by 13% and hospital admissions rose by 21%. Deaths were about the same as the previous week and ICU admissions decreased by 13%. If you pay attention to previous surges, cases and hospitalizations tend to rise together. So the fact that both cases and hospitalizations are rising now is not a good sign.
The PCR test output trend over time can be seen in the graph below, represented by the blue line that corresponds with the left y-axis. The red line represents the test positivity rate over time, and corresponds with the right y-axis. The gray dashed line is the goal line for test positivity.
PCR testing output has been very steady for the past month. After two weeks under 5% positivity for PCR testing, this week we are back above 5% at 5.8%. Being below 5% means that the case rate is unlikely to be an undercount and we are unlikely to be missing cases with the current testing output. So although our testing is about the same as it has been for the past 4 weeks, we are now more likely to be missing cases again.
For antigen testing, the total tests reported was about the same, but the positivity rate rose from 5.8% last week to 6.9% this week.
The DPH does not provide data regarding demographic details for cases identified by the antigen test. Keep that in mind as we go through the demographic data in the following sections. You’re only seeing part of the data. Meanwhile, antigen testing identified 36% of the cases this week.
The number of combined new cases (by date of report) is as follows:
- 24 hours: 702 by PCR + 270 by antigen = 972 (+0.1%)
- 7 days: 6798 by PCR + 3752 by antigen = 10.480 (+1%)
- 4 weeks: 25,724 by PCR + 12,910 by antigen = 38,634 (+3.7%)
In the graph below, I show the Georgia cases by date of report for both PCR and antigen cases for each county type. Ignore the big bump around 11Oct - that was a data dump of antigen cases. You can check how your county is classified here. Case rate is highest for the Atlanta suburb counties and lowest for rural counties. The statewide case rate is 34% above the post-winter surge low point.
The next graph shows us where this week’s confirmed COVID-19 cases came from in terms of age groups. Remember, this only describes PCR cases. We’re missing age information for the antigen cases (~36% of the week’s cases). In the most recent week, cases were on the rise for almost every age group with the exceptions of 1-4, 18-29 and 80+.
The data aren’t shown, but cases rose for every race as well this week.
The number of new hospital admissions (by date of report) is as follows:
- 24 hours: 63 new COVID-19 admissions, 4 admissions to the ICU (weekend reporting is typically light)
- 7 days: 752 new COVID-19 admissions, 101 ICU admissions
- 4 weeks: 2534 new COVID-19 admissions, 402 ICU admissions
As noted earlier in the combined data section that looks at weekly numbers, hospital admissions have been rising for the past two weeks.
Next, let’s look at the demographic details that we have for hospitalizations. Hospital admissions rose for every age group this week. Hospital admissions have been steadily rising for 40-49 year olds over the past five weeks and for the past three weeks for 30-39 year olds. We can also see a growing trend for 60-69 year olds over the past 3 weeks. These data should not be impacted by the PCR versus antigen methods for diagnosis.
The number of new confirmed deaths (by date of report) is as follows. The percentage in parentheses indicates how the increase compares to Georgia’s cumulative total at the start of each window of time.
- 24 hours: 0 confirmed, 1 probable deaths (reporting on Sundays is typically low)
- 7 days: 232 (+1.4%), 38 probable deaths
- 4 weeks: 1069 (+6.6%), 159 probable deaths
The graph below shows how the 7-day death rate per 100,000 residents has trended over time for each county type. Death rate seems to be continuing this bumping slope downward. It’s currently 21% above the pre-winter surge baseline. The 7-day death rate is highest for rural counties and lowest for the Atlanta counties of Fulton and DeKalb.
Next, let’s look at where the week’s newly reported deaths came from in terms of age groups. This week, deaths increased for those 18-29, 50-59, and 80+.
To summarize, cases and hospital admissions are rising and these metrics typically trend together during surges. It’s too soon to know if we’re starting a new surge, but I know I would feel a lot better to see one or both of these numbers reverse course by next week’s update. And as a state, Georgia really isn’t doing anything to slow down a surge or prevent it from happening at this point. Test positivity is also rising, which means that the growing case rate may be a slight underestimate of disease burden. Taken together, please consider this a reminder that the pandemic is not over. The virus can’t move without help from humans. When humans gather, the virus has a new opportunity to spread to others. So please do what you can to continue to follow public health advice: (1) get vaccinated, (2) wear masks when in public, (3) maintain social distancing, (4) prioritize outdoor activities.
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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.