Why are cases not my main focus?

I’m starting to focus less on new cases and testing numbers. I’ll keep posting that data, but won’t discuss it on a daily basis, unless there is something of interest to note. Basically, we have seen a fairly stable rate of increasing cases when testing goes up, and decreasing cases when testing goes down. But we aren’t seeing many other troubling signs to go along with the new cases. We know this virus is out there, and people are getting it, but the impact appears to be much less.

Cases have skewed toward younger populations recently. I compared the age demographics on 6/16 from the DPH site with those from 6/2 when Georgia started sharing these numbers, and cases in Georgia are definitely showing a younger shift in that short time. These younger age groups have much lower rates of hospitalization and fatalities from COVID. The 18-29 year old age group made up only 15% of cases on June 2, but have been 27% of new cases from 6/2-6/16. 53% of new cases were under 40 years old, versus 34.5% of cases were under 40 on June 2.

Widespread testing has also found many more asymptomatic cases. Fulton County reports 28% of cases interviewed are asymptomatic, up from 21% a month ago. The potential for asymptomatic spread is still not well understood, so it’s unclear if these cases would be likely sources to spread the virus, but they they cause no problems for the infected person, so identifying the case is only a good thing.

Even though cases may seem high now, they were actually MUCH higher back in March, and we just didn’t know. The Fulton County DPH has a graph of state-wide hospitalizations by lab date, which shows that new hospital cases peaked in Georgia on March 29 and have dropped steadily from then until mid-May. In addition, data from Kinsa shows influenza-like illness peaked in Fulton County March 14. It’s safe to say that the virus peaked almost a month earlier and much higher than our testing showed, so it’s hard to compare today’s case rates to those back in April.

My focus is now at a more local/regional level within Georgia. Most of metro Atlanta and the Albany area was hit badly early on (peaking in March), and cases in these areas are now flat or decreasing. The larger counties that didn’t peak early on saw cases start to rise in mid-May: Gwinnett, Chatham, Muscogee, Lowndes, and Whitfield. Increases in these counties and some other smaller counties with local outbreaks are influencing our state-wide numbers and slowing the decline in hospitalizations and deaths starting in mid-May. Once these counties start declining (and some may already be started on the decline), I believe our overall state numbers will resume their overall decline.
See FAQ: Where can I find local COVID information?