Analyzing the data
Last week, the rate of new COVID-19 cases declined slightly in Athens-Clarke County.
The county reported 188 new cases from Nov. 16-22, down from 221 cases the week before. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the seven-day moving average positivity rate stayed roughly the same, rising from 4.7% on Nov. 15 to 4.8% on Nov. 22. The World Health Organization recommends that communities maintain a positivity rate below 5%.
The county reported two new deaths during the past week. These are the first deaths in November. Since the start of the pandemic, ACC has reported 52 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.
Current hospitalizations in Region E — which includes Athens and 11 surrounding counties — stayed nearly the same. According to the Georgia Geospatial Information Office, the number of COVID-19 patients in Region E hospitals decreased by one patient from Nov. 15 to Nov. 22, , signaling the number of serious cases in the region remained approximately the same.
Unlike Athens, the rate of new cases rose sharply statewide. From Nov. 16-22, Georgia reported 17,462 cases, up from 13,871 cases from Nov. 9-15. This is the second straight week in which the rate of new cases has increased by more than 25%.
Although the number of cases rose significantly, the seven-day moving average positivity rate fell from 8.4% on Nov. 15 to 7.7% on Nov. 22, according to the DPH. This suggests at least some of the increase in cases came from more testing.
Despite the rise in cases, the weekly death rate declined significantly. After recording 268 deaths from Nov. 9-15, Georgia reported 165 from Nov. 16-22. The weekly death rate rose for much of early through mid-November. It is now roughly back to where it was at the start of the month.
However, the weekly death rate could increase again. According to the Georgia Geospatial Information Office, there were 1,871 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Georgia as of Nov. 22. This is up significantly from Nov. 15, when there were 1,634. The number of current statewide hospitalizations has been steadily trending upward since mid-October, although not as rapidly as it did during the summer surge.
In the news
With cases rising quickly nationwide and in Georgia, the approaching holiday season could be dangerous. Thanksgiving often brings together large groups of people, including many who may be elderly and at higher risk of developing serious complications from COVID-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that virtual celebrations or celebrations with immediate household members pose the least risk of spreading the virus. College students who return home to their families should not be considered household members because they have spent much of their time elsewhere. Surveillance testing may help in catching cases in students returning home for the holidays.
For those holding events with people outside their households, the CDC recommends consider how much the virus is spreading in their communities. Currently, the western part of the country has the worst outbreak, with North Dakota, Wyoming and South Dakota reporting the most cases per capita over the past two weeks, according to an analysis from The New York Times. In Georgia, cases are concentrated in the northern counties over the past two weeks, according to the DPH.
The CDC also says travelers should be careful during trips to and from family gatherings. Airports, bus stops, train stops and other places could be risky because the virus could linger in confined spaces in the air or on surfaces.
In addition, outside gatherings hold less risk than indoor gatherings. The CDC does not recommend a specific limit of people for holiday gatherings, but there should be enough space for participants to maintain at least six feet of physical space between each other.