A novel coronavirus, named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China in 2019. (Photo Courtesy/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

As a new wave of coronavirus infections sweeps the South, Georgia and Athens-Clarke County are no exception. ACC reported 248 confirmed cases in June, which is only slightly higher than the 232 confirmed cases reported in April and May combined.

ACC reported 104 COVID-19 cases from June 22 to June 28, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. That is an increase of 166.7% from the week of June 15-21, when Athens added 39 new cases. The county also broke records of single-day case increases four times in the past week — the highest record was 43 cases reported on Wednesday.

Statewide cases are also on the rise. Georgia added 12,509 confirmed cases over the week of June 22-28. The DPH’s COVID-19 case chart shows an increase in both confirmed cases and the seven-day moving average. Cumulative cases are also on the rise.

Increased testing could be contributing to the rapid increase in cases, but it doesn’t explain all of the rapid increase. Georgia’s test positivity rate is around 13%, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That’s higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended 5% positivity rate.

The latest increase in case numbers has also been driven by younger people, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. People between the ages of 18 and 29 now account for 21.6% of confirmed cases in the state — 17,568 cases out of 81,291 total.

While younger people aren’t at a high risk for severe complications from COVID-19 unless they have an underlying medical condition, they can still transmit the virus. Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order allowing bars to reopen at limited capacity on June 1.

The governors of Texas and Florida, other states where cases have recently surged, have both closed bars and increased restrictions on other businesses, according to Politico.

The University of Georgia’s case number is also increasing. There were 154 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the university community on Tuesday, according to UGA’s University Health Center. The UHC’s numbers include those tested at the university health center as well as UGA students and employees tested in their hometowns that reported to the health center.

St. Mary’s Hospital has not yet seen a significant increase in their number of COVID-19 patients, St. Mary’s spokesperson Mark Ralston said in a Tuesday email.

“Since the local onset of the pandemic in March, the average age of admitted COVID-19 patients at St. Mary’s is 61, with slightly higher average ages in the early months and slightly lower more recently,” Ralston said.

Representatives from Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask, washing hands frequently and keeping 6 feet in between you and other people to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Stroud Payne contributed to the data reporting.

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