“The bad news is that we don’t see a reduction in transmission, but I don’t see a peak in transmission,” said Dr. Gerardo Chowell, professor of mathematical epidemiology at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University .
Data from the Georgia Department of Health shows that the seven-day moving average of coronavirus cases fell steadily from late April to mid-May, reflecting the previous home stay order. The moving average of cases then flattened to just over 500 new cases per day, and totals have increased slightly since May 12.
Last month, after weeks of home orders, Georgia allowed companies like gymnasiums, hair and nail salons, and restaurants to reopen with restrictions in order to restart its economy. Georgia was the first state to act so aggressively to reopen its economy and, as such, became the representative of the wider reopening movement.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished in the past few weeks, but we cannot rest on our laurels,” said Republican Governor Brian Kemp last week. “We need to further expand access to testing and we need to encourage Georgians to make it a priority. “
Dr. Carlos Del Rio, professor of epidemiology at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health, said he thought Georgia was fine, but worried that the case would start to escalate. Because the virus can spread so quickly, a small increase can quickly degenerate into a major peak without proper precautions.
“To have a healthy economy is to provide jobs for people, it is to provide opportunities for people, it is a health issue,” he said. “So unemployment causes illness, unemployment causes poverty, so we have to find a balance, but we have to do it carefully. We must be careful not to be irresponsible. “
Georgia has recorded more than 43,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, just over 400 per 100,000 population, and more than 1,800 deaths from coronavirus, or 17 per 100,000 population, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University . Per capita figures are in the upper middle of the peloton among American states, tied with Mississippi and Virginia, but slightly higher than Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina.
Data sets cloud trends
Dr. Chowell told CNN that the recent increase in cases was likely due more to the expansion of testing in the state rather than the reopening. He said he expects the current transmission rate to remain stable throughout the summer.
However, Del Rio and Chowell said that Georgia’s problems with its test data made their analysis somewhat uncertain.
Georgia is one of the states that combined diagnostic test and antibody figures on their website. Because these two tests measure different things – diagnostic tests check for current infection and antibody tests check for past infection – combining them could draw a misleading picture of where the virus is spread and the number of people currently infected.
“It contaminates the picture of the epidemic in the state and does not help us get a better estimate of the rate of transmission currently,” said Chowell.
In the past month, average daily tests have dropped from around 5,000 per day to around 20,000. With the increase in tests and a relatively stable number of positive results, the rate of positive tests has dropped to approximately 5% compared to a previous rate of 15% to 20%.
On its website, the Georgian Ministry of Health has stated that it will separate diagnostic tests from antibody tests “as soon as possible”.
In addition, two weeks ago, a misleading bar graph on the Department of Public Health’s website appeared to show that the number of new confirmed cases in the most infected counties had declined daily in the previous two weeks. However, the chart did not list the dates in chronological order or keep the counties in the same position every day, which caused confusion.
The graphic has since been removed from the website. Georgia Department of Public Health spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said the problem was due to “incorrect sorting logic” that did not take into account the date of the confirmed cases.
Where was georgia and what’s next
The number of positive and consistent cases is far from March, when hospitals began to see several Covid-19 flares in different parts of Georgia at the same time.
The problem was particularly acute in Albany, where there was a cluster of cases related to two funerals in late February and early March. Even now, the number of per capita cases and deaths is significantly higher in the counties surrounding Albany than in other parts of Georgia.
“These first days were scary and intense. We knew so little about it, and how it spread or how to treat it, “said Dr. Shanti Akers, a physician in pulmonary intensive care at the Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany. Coronavirus crisis subcommittee last week.
It was not until March 10, after more than a week of surge, that the hospital was informed that he had treated a case of coronavirus positive, she said.
“What started as a case has spread like wildfire,” she added. “We filled room after room until we had at least five floors dedicated to the care of these patients.”
As the state progresses, Kemp and health experts have encouraged people to wear masks, wash their hands with soap and distance themselves from others to reduce the spread of the virus.
Chowell said he expected the Covid-19 cases to remain stable throughout the summer, although that could change at any time. Still, he was more worried about a spate of new cases in the fall if schools reopened and people stayed inside when the weather got colder.
“The extent of this second wave will depend on the policies being implemented in the state regarding the extent to which we encourage telework and distance learning, as well as how people conform and adhere at a social distance and put in place individual protective elements such as wearing masks every time we go out and interact with others, “he said.