Analyzing the data
Last week, Athens-Clarke County saw an increase in the rate of new confirmed COVID-19 cases.
From Dec. 7-13, ACC reported 430 confirmed cases, compared to 380 from Nov. 30-Dec. 6. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the seven-day moving average positivity rate fell from 9.9% on Dec. 6 to 9.4% on Dec. 13. Although this is a slight drop, it is still high. The World Health Organization recommends that positivity rates should stay at 5% or lower.
From Dec. 7-13, ACC reported two more confirmed COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total to 57 since the start of the pandemic.
According to the Georgia Geospatial Information Office, the number of current hospitalizations in Region E — which includes ACC and several surrounding counties — jumped early in the week before declining. On Dec. 13, there were 141 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, about the same as the 143 on Dec. 6.
Statewide, the weekly rate of new confirmed COVID-19 cases also increased.
Georgia reported 32,222 new confirmed COVID-19 cases from Dec. 7-13, up from the 23,221 the week before. On Dec. 10, Georgia reported over 6,000 confirmed cases, a new record for confirmed cases in a single day. According to the DPH, the seven-day moving average positivity rate rose slightly from 11.9% on Dec. 6 to 12.8% on Dec. 13.
The rate of weekly confirmed deaths also rose. Georgia recorded 234 new confirmed COVID-19 deaths from Dec. 7-13, compared to 193 from Nov. 30-Dec. 6.
The death rate may continue to rise. According to the Georgia Geospatial Information Office, the number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations increased from 2,454 on Dec. 6 to 2,866 on Dec. 13, a sign that the number of severe COVID-19 cases may be increasing. Counties in north Georgia have seen especially high increases in current COVID-19 patients over the past few weeks.
In addition, comparing the week of Dec. 7 to the week of Nov. 30 may be difficult because the Thanksgiving holiday created a backlog that may have increased case and death counts.
In the news
Distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine has begun to take shape. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, and trucks carrying the first shipment of the vaccine left Pfizer’s Global Supply facility on Dec. 13. The FDA is also reviewing an application for emergency use authorization from Moderna for its vaccine. The distribution of the vaccine will help reduce the death rate and restore normalcy to everyday life.
However, this does not mark the end of the pandemic. The initial shipments will prioritize health care workers and the staff and residents of long term care facilities. However, there will not be enough doses for everyone in these categories. The vaccines are not expected to be widely available for anyone who wants it until April.
In addition, the situation with COVID-19 is already grave. According to analysis from the COVID Tracking Project, the seven-day averages of daily cases and deaths have been rising. Cases have been rising faster than tests, suggesting the rise in cases is not due simply to an increase in the number of tests conducted. Current hospitalizations reached 109,331 nationwide on Sunday, a record high.
As the semester ends, more students will leave Athens. This might allow the rate of new cases to drop in ACC, giving Athenians a better chance to stay safe and recover before the next semester starts. Thus, continuing to follow safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help to limit the pandemic’s public health impact in the meantime.