Analyzing the data
After new COVID-19 cases had seemingly plateaued in Athens during July, the county saw a marked increase in the rate of new cases last week. From Aug. 3-9, Athens reported 330 new cases, 23.1% more than from July 27-Aug. 2. It is the second straight week Athens reported 57 or more cases than the previous week.
Analyzing this data comes with a couple of caveats. First, county data can fluctuate from week to week, so it may be too early to draw trends with certainty. Second, Georgia does not break down testing numbers on the county level, so it is unclear how much of the increase in cases can be attributed to changes in testing. Still, a rise in new confirmed cases is concerning, especially with the start of in-person classes at the University of Georgia less than two weeks away and dorm move-in taking place at the end of this week.
Athens also reported another COVID-19 death last week, bringing the total death toll to 18. It is the third death recorded in the past two weeks. Athens had nearly gone two months before that without a death.
Although the rate of new coronavirus cases may be rising in Athens, it seems to be declining statewide. Last week, Georgia reported 23,419 new cases, down from the 25,224 cases reported the previous week. Furthermore, the seven-day average positivity rate fell to 10% on Aug. 9 — the lowest it has been since late June.
However, despite improving case numbers, deaths rose statewide compared to last week. From Aug. 3-9, Georgia reported 359 deaths, 5.0% more than the 342 reported from July 27-Aug. 2. Georgia’s weekly death toll has been steadily rising since early July.
However, the rate of new deaths may start to fall in the coming weeks. According to the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, the number of current hospitalizations has been decreasing, falling from 3,069 on Aug. 2 to 2,878 on Aug. 9. This suggests the number of serious cases of COVID-19 is dropping.
In the news
With the start of the fall semester looming, the University of Georgia is coming under increasing scrutiny for its handling of the coronavirus and pressure to change its reopening plans.
After UGA housing employee Ana Cabrera died on July 24, anonymous sources told The Red & Black that she had tested positive for COVID-19. On Aug. 7, Athens-Clarke County Coroner Sonny Wilson confirmed Cabrera died due to COVID-19. Despite Wilson’s confirmation, UGA has not said whether Cabrera died from COVID-19.
In addition, on Aug. 4, university administration held a Zoom call to discuss its plans for the fall semester. According to Rahul Shrivastav, vice president for instruction, most classes will be on-campus with social distancing measures in place. Some classes will be moved online, and some are going to a hybrid model with some online and in-person classes.
The university wants to test 300 asymptomatic student, faculty and staff volunteers a day. By comparison, Georgia Tech plans to test 1,500 asymptomatic people a day. There was also no explanation as to why UGA will not test all students, faculty and staff before they return to campus. UGA hopes to isolate students who test positive as soon as possible.
Yet many in the UGA community are not satisfied with the university’s plan for reopening. Frustrated students, faculty and staff held a “die-in” to protest the university’s fall reopening on Aug. 6. That came after the faculty senates of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and Mary Frances Early College of Education submitted a letter on July 28 to UGA administration calling the university’s plan to test 300 asymptomatic people per day “clearly inadequate.”