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.
Cases were virtually the same as the previous week. Hospitalizations and ICU admissions both increased by 4% and 32%, respectively. Deaths decreased by 11% compared to the previous week.
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 was virtually the same as the previous week. Of all the PCR tests reported this week, 4.9% were positive. So the state remains under the 5% goal line. The challenge is keeping the test positivity rate at or below 5% for a sustained period of time. 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.
For antigen testing, there was a 20% increase in the number of tests reported this week and of the antigen tests reported, 5.8% were positive.
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 32% of the cases this week.
The number of combined new cases (by date of report) is as follows:
- 24 hours: 725 by PCR + 367 by antigen = 1092 (+0.1%)
- 7 days: 6298 by PCR + 2940 by antigen = 9,238 (+0.9%)
- 4 weeks: 26,653 by PCR + 13,353 by antigen = 40,006 (+3.9%)
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 counties of Fulton and DeKalb and lowest for rural counties. The statewide case rate is 27% above the pre-surge baseline. The case rate has ticked upward in the past few days. But we’ve seen the case rate bounce around a bit in recent weeks. So the recent uptick could just be more of this same variation.
The next graph shows us where this week’s confirmed COVID-19 cases came from in terms of age groups. Small increases were observed in the weekly count for those 18 - 39. These age groups only recently became eligible for vaccination. It’s worth pointing out that previous surges began with the 18-29 year group, spreading into other age groups. It’s way too soon to know if we’re in a surge. But this is a group that I watch closely week to week.
The number of new hospital admissions (by date of report) is as follows:
- 24 hours: 64 new COVID-19 admissions, 6 admissions to the ICU (weekend reporting is typically light)
- 7 days: 620 new COVID-19 admissions, 116 ICU admissions
- 4 weeks: 2353 new COVID-19 admissions, 425 ICU admissions
As noted earlier in the combined data section that looks at weekly numbers, hospital admissions are on the rise compared to the previous week. And while hospital reporting is typically low on the weekends, today’s new admission count (64) is three times higher than what we observed last Sunday. I’ve made mention of a concerning increase in COVID-19 patient census for hospital region A (northwest corner of the state) in the past week. But now we can clearly see that patient census is rising steadily for hospital region N (northwest Atlanta suburbs) as well. Over the past 2.5 weeks, the patient census has risen 16.6%. Region N is just south of region A.
It’s not surprising that we would see hospital burden escalating in regions A and N if we look at community transmission rates. I’ve highlighted the counties below that make up hospital regions A and N. Nine of the thirteen counties are in the red zone and the remaining counties are in the orange zone. These counties seem to show a continuation of the community transmission rates that exist in the counties north of the Tennessee border. This same part of Georgia is where the winter surge began. Let’s hope that whatever increases they’re experiencing in northwest Georgia can remain there and not spread elsewhere through the state.
Next, let’s look at the demographic details that we have for hospitalizations. Hospital admissions have been steadily rising for 40-49 year olds over the past four weeks and for the past two weeks for 30-39 year olds. As I discussed in Friday’s newsletter, because of who the state has targeted for vaccinations, we should anticipate younger people remaining unprotected and making up more of our hospitalized patients. So far hospital admissions are rising for those age groups but they aren’t the bulk of the hospitalized population, which still features a lot of older adults. But whereas hospitalizations are increasing for young adults, they are flat or decreasing for most adults over the age of 50.
In the combined data section, I discussed that there was a 32% increase in the number of patients admitted to the ICU for COVID-19 this week. We don’t get to see those ICU admissions by age group, but we can see them by race. In the graph below, we can see that this week the increases in ICU admissions were largest for White and Black / African-American populations. For White populations, the ICU admissions have been rising for the past 2 weeks and may be the beginning of a trend.
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, 0 probable deaths (reporting on Sundays is typically low)
- 7 days: 233 (+1.4%), 43 probable deaths
- 4 weeks: 1111 (+7%), 162 probable deaths
The graph below shows how the 7-day death rate per 100,000 residents has trended over time for each county type. Previously this week the 7-day death rate was below the pre-winter surge level briefly, but the rate has since increased to 43% 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 40-49 but decreased for all other age groups.
Deaths decreased this week compared to the previous week, but increases were observed for Asian and “Other” race categories. The Other category includes the majority of those who identify as Hispanic.
To summarize, cases are flat and deaths are decreasing. But we have some increases in hospital burden, especially in hospital regions A and N.
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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.