Week Ending July 23: Cases are up 78% this week, and spread across much of the state, with the highest increases in Southeast Georgia. Testing is finally starting to increase, but test positivity continues to rise. Current hospitalizations increased significantly this week, and are now near last year’s lows. Reported deaths declined 20% from last week. By date of death, there’s been a small increase in recent deaths, but we are still near pandemic lows.
Highlights from the Week
- We are now about 4 weeks into the recent wave. Historically, increases have lasted about 6-8 weeks in many locations, so we’re potentially looking at continued increases into mid-August, but predictions are hard to make when we have so many unknowns about the interplay of vaccinations, prior immunity, and a variant that seems to spread more readily.
- On Friday, July 2nd, over 900 old tests were reported with 99% that were almost all positive (I excluded these from total tests and positivity numbers in this report). Although this did not lead to a large number of cases reported, these cases may have been reported on previous days. We had a similar dump of old tests with the majority positive the week ending June 26th, but it was a smaller batch, so I did not adjust that week’s numbers, though the higher positivity that week is noted on some of my graphs.
- The CDC held an ACIP meeting to discuss myocarditis risks from the mRNA vaccines in young people, especially boys and men <30. Many were critical of the presentation for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, it appears the outcome was predetermined based on the fact that a dozen medical organizations released a joint statement as soon as the meeting concluded stating the risks of COVID outweigh the risks of the vaccine. However, the FDA has added a warning to the EUA fact sheets regarding myocarditis risks to seek immediate medical care for symptoms of “chest pain, shortness of breath, or feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart after vaccination,” which typically present within a few days after the second dose. While the CDC continues to consider this a “mild” risk, hundreds of young people have been hospitalized for days following their 2nd dose. Here are a few articles with more info:
- The CDC Owes Parents Better Messaging on the Vaccine for Kids
- CDC’s All-or-Nothing Approach to Teen COVID Vaccination Is All Wrong
- Weighing myocarditis cases, ACIP failed to balance the harms vs benefits of 2nd doses (by Wes Pegden, a mathematician critical of the metrics ACIP used)
- A very flawed CDC report came out recently about COVID hospitalizations among teens. Read my response.
- Vaccinations are now available to ages 12 and up under Emergency Use Authorization (only Pfizer is authorized for children 12-17, and parental permission is required). See my Vaccine page for details on vaccine progress and other vaccine information for Georgia, including how to find a shot.
- See additional graphs for cases/testing and deaths in Georgia, as well as additional HHS data for nation-wide hospitalizations.
- I incorporate 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, which is used by the CovidActNow.org web site. We are back in the orange zone for total (confirmed plus antigen) cases. The orange zone is for a daily average 10-25 cases per 100K, and the yellow zone is 1-10 daily cases per 100K. As of Friday, July 23, Georgia is at 15.8 daily average total cases per 100K (up from 8.9 last week).
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 (total weekly cases instead of daily average cases used by Harvard). I track our weekly cases per 100K metric daily on my Today in Georgia page, which is updated daily. As of Friday, July 23, Georgia is at 110 weekly total cases per 100K (up from 62 last week) for confirmed and antigen cases combined. Unfortunately, we moved back to the red category by this metric (High transmission).
In the graph below, I show confirmed (PCR) cases and testing. The percent of positive tests is shown in a second graph below. 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 46 confirmed deaths since last Friday.
You can see on the graph below that in 2021, we’ve had a lot of weeks with a higher percentage of older deaths reported. This prevents the reported deaths from dropping more quickly as we continue to audit and report deaths that occurred months ago.
You can see in the second graph below that initial death reporting in the first two weeks has been making up about half the total deaths for the week lately. During peaks, initial death reporting can be lower. Deaths peaked the week ending January 16th. Keep in mind that total deaths in Georgia 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 dropped rapidly in February and March, and now 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. Keep in mind the numbers below only include the hospitalizations of those confirmed with COVID. A graph showing those combined numbers is available on my Hospitalizations page.