Week in Review, 3-9May2021

Georgia COVID-19 Updates

This week in review is going out a day later than usual. My apologies! We went camping this weekend and the cleanup afterwards had me far more tired than I anticipated. This week should be an interesting one as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meets Wednesday to decide whether to recommend the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 - 15.

Combined Data

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.

There were only 7169 newly reported cases this week, a decrease of 20% compared to the previous week. That’s the lowest weekly total Georgia has seen since the week that ended 21Jun2020. The death total this week was also among the lowest we’ve recorded (3rd best week of the pandemic). Deaths decreased by 36% this week. Hospital admissions were also down, by 10%, to yield the 2nd best week recorded for Georgia to date. But ICU admissions increased slightly, by 6.7%. If there was any doubt that these vaccines work, I think we can clearly see that they do. Let’s keep things going. Please work to get vaccinated if you haven’t done so already.


Testing

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.

We saw a big decrease in PCR testing this week, -28.8%. Test positivity increased slightly to 4.7% this week.

Antigen testing also decreased this week, by about 16%, but the positivity rate decreased to 5.4%.

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.


Cases

The number of combined new cases (by date of report) is as follows:
- 24 hours: 505 by PCR + 123 by antigen = 628 (+0.06%)
- 7 days: 4876 by PCR + 2293 by antigen = 7169 (+0.7%)
- 4 weeks: 24,237 by PCR + 11,929 by antigen = 36,166 (+3.4%)

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 suburbs and lowest for rural counties. The last time the statewide 7-day case rate was this low, was 21Jun2020.

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 (~32% of the week’s cases). In the most recent week, cases decreased for all age groups.

Cases rose slightly among the White population, but was steady or decreasing for all other racial groups. If you look at the “unknown” category, you can see that DPH and its contact tracers have been working through a lot of the backlog, sorting people into their correct category. We’ve seen this happen before when case rates are low and they have the staff and capacity to do that important work. Keeping case rates low is in all of our best interest.


Hospitalizations

The number of new hospital admissions (by date of report) is as follows:
- 24 hours: 13 new COVID-19 admissions, 3 admission to the ICU (weekend reporting is typically light)
- 7 days: 526 new COVID-19 admissions, 111 ICU admissions
- 4 weeks: 2484 new COVID-19 admissions, 434 ICU admissions

As discussed in the combined data section, hospital admissions decreased this week, but not for everyone. Hospital admissions rose for those 1-4, 50-59 and 70-79.


Deaths

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: -1 confirmed (data correction), 0 probable deaths
- 7 days: 123 (+0.7%), 32 probable deaths
- 4 weeks: 719 (+4.2%), 160 probable deaths

The graph below shows how the 7-day death rate per 100,000 residents has trended over time for each county type. The state’s death rate is currently 33% below the pre-winter surge baseline. The 7-day death rate is highest for Atlanta suburb counties and lowest for the rural counties.

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 and 60-69. Please work to get vaccinated - not only to protect yourself but the people you encounter.


Where do we go from here?

The data are trending in a really good direction. It’s easy to imagine a time in the near future when we no longer have to review these data because the burden is so small. But that isn’t the finish line. We need to continue to work to vaccinate as many people as we can. Because we don’t want a repeat of last winter. So where do we stand in Georgia? Last week the Atlanta Journal Constitution published a poll conducted by the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. The poll covered a wide spectrum of topics, but we got to see COVID polling data here. Many thanks to the people who did this work - it was this data nerd’s version of Christmas morning. If you click on the link above, you can toggle through the different responses from different slices of the Georgia population.

Let’s start by looking at the data for attitudes surrounding the pandemic. The majority of people feel safe eating in a restaurant at full capacity, and just over half feel safe getting on an airplane at full capacity. However, less than half of respondents felt safe about attending a large sporting event at full capacity. That’s interesting since some sporting events, like Atlanta Braves baseball, are entirely outdoor venues whereas restaurants and airplanes are indoor spaces. Less than half of the respondents were concerned about another surge of COVID-19 cases. So we have our work cut out for us. If people don’t see COVID-19 as a threat, will they be moved to get vaccinated?

Among the poll respondents, just over half had already received a COVID-19 vaccine dose. Among those who hadn’t yet received a dose, 13% planned to do so as soon as possible and another 34% were in the “wait and see” camp. That’s the overall result. Things get interesting when you dig into the demographic data and responses. A selection of those demographic groups are shown in the table below. You can see how many respondents of each group has already received 1+ dose in the third column from the right. We are already above 75% for those who identify as liberal and those 65+. We are <50% for Black, conservative and adults under 65.

One of the initial takeaways from this poll was that one in four Georgians had no intention of getting vaccinated. And that can be discouraging. But I think the table above shows us that there are still a lot of people who want to be vaccinated or are persuadable (see orange boxed area). And when Pfizer and Moderna are granted full FDA approval (possibly this month) then some of those “wait and see” folks might move into the ASAP group. In fact, if we are able to serve the vaccine enthusiasts (the ASAP crowd), we surpass 80% vaccination rate for liberals and those 65+. If we are able to have meaningful conversations with the “wait and see” crowd, where they’re able to ask questions and get answers, then we could surpass 80% for Black, Other, and moderates. What’s also interesting is what is happening among young adults. More 18-29 year olds plan to get vaccinated ASAP than 45-64 year olds and far more of them are persuadable. We are actually more likely to achieve 80% vaccination rate among 18-29 year olds than we might with 45-64 year olds. And that is really interesting because if you scroll up to the Hospitalizations section and look at the graph by age, you’ll see that the biggest age group for hospitalizations are the 50-69 year groups.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a treasure trove of new data on COVID-19 vaccine polling and I hope to discuss the data at greater length later this week. But among those 18-29 year olds, it seems that peer pressure works. When a respondent indicated that at least half of their close friends had been vaccinated, they were much more likely to already be vaccinated, want to get vaccinated or remain persuadable (wait and see). And I can’t blame them. I want to get back to normal life as much as possible. Vaccines are the way to get there.


References

https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report

https://covid-gagio.hub.arcgis.com/

https://www.ajc.com/politics/interactive-poll-of-georgia-voters-may-2021/FFHYUMAS25HBHOW4FHXX4T3ZPE/

https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/dashboard/kff-covid-19-vaccine-monitor-dashboard/


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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.