Analyzing the data
New COVID-19 cases stayed steady in Athens-Clarke County for a second straight week.
From Oct. 12-18, ACC saw 178 new cases, only three more than from Oct. 5-11. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the seven-day moving average positivity rate also ticked up slightly to 4.6% on Oct. 18 from 4.4% on Oct. 11.
The positivity rate has been slowly increasing over the past couple of weeks. The seven-day moving average positivity rate reached as low as 3.5% on Oct. 5. The rising positivity rate could be a warning sign if it continues to rise. For now, however, the county still meets the World Health Organization’s target of a 5% positivity rate or lower.
There were no COVID-19 related deaths recorded in ACC this week. There have been two deaths so far in October. The rate of new deaths in the county appears to have fallen significantly. From Sept. 1-18, there were 15 deaths in ACC.
Statewide, Georgia saw a rise in new coronavirus cases. The state reported 9,149 new cases from Oct. 12-18, up from 8,484 the week before. This is the highest number of new cases since late September. Similarly to Athens, the seven-day moving average positivity rate rose from 5.6% on Oct. 11 to 5.9% on Oct. 18.
Georgia also reported 222 new deaths from Oct. 12-18, down from 254 from Oct. 5-11. The weekly death toll from COVID-19 has generally fallen from its peak in mid-August, although the fall has been uneven at times.
Nationwide, coronavirus cases have been on the rise, especially in northern states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Wisconsin.Georgia has not seen a similar rise in cases since new cases declined from their peak in late July through early August. However, cold weather that encourages indoor gatherings and family events for the holiday season poses some risk to Georgia.
In the news
Early, in-person voting began in Georgia on Oct. 12, and with it came long lines in several counties, including ACC. According to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, over 1.4 million Georgians have already cast their ballots, including almost 819,000 early in-person.
The coronavirus pandemic presents challenges to how elections are conducted. Despite many voters choosing to submit absentee ballots, Georgia still experienced a surge of early in-person voting. Almost 128,000 Georgians voted on the first day of early voting,around 40% higher than the 90,000 cast on the first day of early voting in 2016, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
For those who are especially high risk for developing serious complications from COVID-19, voting absentee may be the best option. Although voting draws large numbers of people together, it can be done safely, as long as proper precautions are taken. White House Coronavirus Task Force advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci himself plans to vote in person, according to CNBC.
As with any event, wearing a mask and maintaining social distance can significantly reduce the risk of infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends voting at “off-peak times, such as mid-morning” and if possible, monitoring the voting line to go when there are fewer people.