Week Ending May 1: Cases were down more this week, which is good. Current hospitalizations were down a little, but fairly flat. PCR test positivity decreased to 4.4%, but this is artificially low due to a dump of mostly negative PCR tests in DeKalb County. Reported deaths were up, but this was due to an unusually large dump of very old deaths (including 60 deaths that occurred in 2020!).
Highlights from the Week
- Two big (unrelated) data dumps this week of both tests and deaths.
- On Saturday, May 1, over 19K PCR tests were dumped in DeKalb County, but positivity was very low at 1.8%, and it did not result in an unusual number of new cases. (Perhaps the cases were already reported?). See my Twitter thread with more info.
- Beginning Wednesday, April 28, through the end of the week, a large number of old deaths were reported going back as far as last summer. In total for the week, 60 confirmed deaths were reported that occurred in 2020. It’s possible there was an audit, but GA DPH never releases information when they dump old data into the current numbers. Without these old deaths, death reporting would have been down from the previous week. For more details with the number of deaths added per month, see the section below titled “Reported Deaths vs Actual.”
- I recently updated my web site with additional graphs for cases/testing and deaths in Georgia, as well as additional HHS data for nation-wide hospitalizations.
- Vaccinations have slowed a little, and appointments are readily available all over the state, including Metro Atlanta pharmacies. I recently added a page to my site to share vaccine progress and other vaccine information for Georgia, including how to find a shot.
- I have incorporated antigen case data and probable death data into my reporting in many places. Look for the words Confirmed or Total (Confirmed + Antigen/Probable) to know if a graph includes these numbers.
I’ve had several followers who use my web site ask how they could thank me for the work I’m doing, so I’ve set up a Virtual Food Drive benefiting the Atlanta Community Food Bank to help feed families in need during this difficult year. I already met my initial goal, so I doubled it. Thanks to everyone for your support. Click here to donate!
The visualization below shows multiple COVID metrics on the same graph, based on their weekly values as a percentage from the summer peak. Early in the summer, you can first see a peak in cases (by symptom onset) and ER visits with COVID-Like Illness, followed by a peak in hospital admits and current hospitalizations, and then a peak in deaths (by date of death). As you can see, these metrics have continued to follow similar paths. Everything dropped quickly in unison in January and February, even faster than it did in the summer, and is now slowing. Hopefully we can keep these numbers from increasing due to natural and vaccine immunity. (NOTE: I do not show cases or deaths for the previous two weeks as the data is still incomplete.)
Cases & Testing
My preference to focus on overall trends and indicators other than raw case counts, but many thresholds for risk levels are based on reported case numbers, so I’m adding some additional tracking and context around these numbers.
Harvard has risk levels based on daily average case rates. We are now out of the red zone for total (confirmed plus antigen) cases, and approaching the orange zone. The red zone is for a daily average >25 cases per 100K, and the orange zone is 10-25 daily cases per 100K. As of Saturday, May 1, Georgia is at 11.6 daily average total cases per 100K (down from 12.9 last week). The next goal is to get under 10 daily cases per 100K to reach Harvard’s yellow zone.
A different metric, used by the White House and CDC defines the red zone as over 100 cases per 100K in a week or more. I track our weekly cases per 100K metric daily on my Today in Georgia page, which is updated daily. As of Saturday, May 1, Georgia is at 81 weekly total cases per 100K (down from 90 last week) for confirmed and antigen cases combined.
In the graph below, I show confirmed (PCR) cases and testing. The percent of positive tests is shown in a second graph below. (Testing was over-reported by over 19K tests for the current week, which artificially lowered positivity as well.) Free COVID tests are readily available all over the state for anyone who wants one.
If you want to see a table of the raw numbers with additional explanation of the numbers, I created a separate page for the chart of Weekly Testing and Cases.
Reported Cases vs. Actual
In the graph below, the blue bars represent the number of reported cases in a given week, and the orange squares represent the number of COVID cases where symptom onset or lab test occurred that week. All of the actual case total (in orange) are subject to change some over time. However, the majority of changes will occur in the final week of the graph, which is likely less than half of the final amount it will be, and the previous weeks should see smaller changes. In the fall/winter wave, test results were processed and reported fairly quickly, so the peak of cases by onset date and report date were both the week ending January 9th. Remember that the final week of this graph is still quite incomplete.
Reported Deaths vs. Actual
Georgia records deaths by actual date of death on their graph on the DPH web site, and I track this, so that I can report on how many of the reported deaths each week are recent deaths vs. older deaths. Deaths reported in a given week often did not occur in the past week, or even the previous week.
The following table shows when the confirmed deaths reported over the past week occurred. There was a net change of 196 confirmed deaths since last Saturday.
You can see on the graph below that there have been a few weeks where a lot of older deaths are reported. This happened the week ending June 13, the week ending Nov. 14, and in 2021, we’ve had a lot of weeks with a higher percentage of older deaths reported. This past week was the worst percentage of older deaths reported yet. This has been preventing the reported deaths from dropping more quickly.
You can see in the second graph below that initial death reporting during December was very low, presumably due to the holidays, but death reporting caught up in January. Deaths peaked the week ending January 16th. Keep in mind that total deaths are always highest in January and February, due to the normal pattern of respiratory viruses, so it’s not surprising to see an increase at this time, especially given the high case rate we saw throughout December. However, deaths by date of death have dropped rapidly in February and March, and may be at/near their lowest point since March 2020.
There is often lower death reporting on Sundays and Mondays, and fluctuations from day to day, with higher days often on Tuesdays, so it remains important not to focus on the number of reported deaths in a single day. It does not reflect the number of actual deaths that actually occurred that day. Read more about how deaths are reported in Georgia.
In the graph below, the blue lines represent the number of reported deaths in a given week, and the orange squares represent the number of known COVID deaths that actually occurred that week. All of the actual death numbers (orange squares) are subject to change some over time. However, the largest changes typically occur within the two final weeks. Deaths for recent weeks, especially this past week (which is still preliminary) will increase further over the next few weeks.
I have links on my Hospitalizations page to external dashboards showing more detailed hospitalization data by region. Current hospitalizations for COVID positive patients fell significantly for the eighth week in a row. I removed the other hospital data from this report, as it appears to be significantly affected by reporting delays and does not seem to reflect the current situation based on other sources of hospital data.