The recent coronavirus data has been largely positive for Athens-Clarke County. Over the week of June 8-14, Athens added 21 new confirmed COVID-19 cases — on average 3 per day. This was a notable decline from the previous week, when cases increased by 38. This decline comes even as Georgia saw 19.6% more cases over the week of June 8-14 than June 1-7.
In addition, no ACC residents died from COVID-19 over the past week.
ACC hospitalizations increased only slightly from 51 to 54 from June 8-14. For comparison, from June 1-7, it rose from 45 to 51.
It should be noted that this figure does not reflect current COVID-19 hospitalizations. It is also likely an underestimate because, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, it only "includes the confirmed COVID-19 cases that were hospitalized at the time the case was reported to DPH or when the case was interviewed." This means someone who tested positive and then had to go to the hospital later would not be counted in the figure.
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The Georgia primary elections were held on June 9. This will provide the first test run of how well state election officials are keeping voting sanitary and safe. As an event in which many people go to one location and touch the same surfaces, elections could lead to more infections. In Wisconsin, for example, several cases were linked to the primary election held in April.
Unlike Wisconsin, however, Georgia delayed its primary election twice. This gave the state time to promote mail-in ballots and take precautions for in-person voting. Despite these preparations, however, many precincts still reported problems such as long lines, which could lead to more cases.
It will be especially important for Georgia to improve its voting precautions before the November general election, which will probably be much riskier if Georgia does not properly prepare. The general election will have many more voters, and the cooler temperatures might lead to a surge in cases.
Around two weeks ago, Gov. Brian Kemp allowed bars and nightclubs to reopen. Because COVID-19 takes approximately two weeks to show up in testing data, the next week’s data should give some insight into what effect reopening bars has on the coronavirus’ spread.
There are certainly reasons to be concerned. MLive — a news organization in Michigan — asked four public health experts in Michigan to rate the riskiness of 36 activities on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the most risky and one being the least. MLive then assigned each activity a score equal to the average of the four experts’ ratings, rounded to the nearest whole number.
Bars were tied with large music concerts with a risk level of nine, and they were rated as riskier than sports stadiums, gyms, amusement parks, churches and buffets. Bars don't provide an ideal environment for practicing COVID-19 precautions. Most of the time, people are packed together in a tight space, and they probably won't wear masks while they drink and dance with one another.
In addition to the reopening of bars, this coming week should show what effect the Black Lives Matter protests have had on the coronavirus. The first protest following the killing of George Floyd in Athens was on May 31, and protests continued every day for a week, culminating in a 1,500 person organized rally on June 6.
Thousands of protesters could create an environment where the virus could more easily spread. University of Georgia public health experts told The Red & Black they expect the protests to lead to more cases. Thankfully, it is harder for the virus to spread outside than inside, so the effect could be mitigated somewhat.
It also remains to be seen how many people new patients infect. For example, if the protests led to an increase in cases of 500, but only one out of 10 of the new patients infected someone else, the increase could be manageable. If the new cases start spreading to multiple people both inside and outside of the protests, Georgia could soon have a surge in cases.