Coronavirus update 2.0 Athens

Analyzing the data

The rate of new COVID-19 cases rose both in Athens-Clarke County and statewide from Nov. 30-Dec. 6.

Athens-Clarke County reported 380 new confirmed cases last week, compared to 208 the week before. In addition, the seven-day average positivity rate sharply rose from 4.6% on Nov. 29 to 9.9% on Dec. 6, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The World Health Organization recommends maintaining a positivity rate of 5%.

The county also reported one new confirmed COVID-19 death over the past week. Since the start of the pandemic, ACC has 55 confirmed COVID-19 deaths.

There were 23,221 confirmed cases in Georgia from Nov. 30-Dec. 6, up from 16,190 from Nov. 23-29. The seven-day average positivity rate also rose from 8.6% on Nov. 29 to 11.9% on Dec. 6, according to the DPH.

The weekly death rate also rose statewide. From Nov. 30-Dec. 6, the state reported 193 confirmed deaths, 42 more than the week before. However, this is still a relatively low weekly death toll compared to August through October.

The Thanksgiving holiday could have created a backlog that contributed to elevated case and death reports this week. DPH spokesperson Nancy Nydam told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that a “lag in reporting” over Thanksgiving was partially responsible for the high number of cases reported on Dec. 2.

However, one statistic points to a worsening situation in Georgia and the region surrounding ACC — current hospitalizations. Current hospitalizations have been more resistant to variations that impact case and death reports.

According to the Georgia Geospatial Information Office, there were 143 currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Region E as of Dec. 6. That is a sharp increase from Nov. 29, when there were 84 current hospitalizations. Statewide, current hospitalizations rose from 2,139 on Nov. 29 to 2,454 on Dec. 6.

In the news

Across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be worsening. Current hospitalizations are continuing to rise, reaching a new peak on Dec. 6, according to an analysis by the COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-based source on COVID-19 data and information created by The Atlantic. The situation also seems to have become more serious in Georgia over the past few weeks.

On Nov. 30, Moderna applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 vaccine. Once approved and distributed, the vaccines could play a major role in reducing the death rate and returning life to pre-pandemic times.

However, rising caseloads and current hospitalizations could result in more deaths in Georgia and around the country before the vaccine can be distributed. The situation may continue to get worse. Because new infections can take around two weeks or more to appear in the data, a surge from Thanksgiving may start appearing at the end of the coming week. Other winter holidays could also lead to large indoor gatherings as the weather gets colder, and where the virus spreads more easily. 

This will provide a challenge to public health officials, who will need to try to limit the spread to stop hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

CORRECTION: The new statewide COVID-19 numbers originally reported in Georgia were for Dec. 5. The Red & Black regrets this error, and it has since been fixed.