Week Ending Oct. 8: Cases are down 16% this week, despite a large dump of old cases (30% of the cases reported this week were from mid-September or earlier). Testing was similar to last week, again due to delayed reporting of old tests, and test positivity decreased further. Current hospitalizations continued their decline. Death reports were up this week, due to an increase in older deaths being reported. The peak of deaths by date of death is still holding in early-to-mid September.
Highlights from the Week
- Cases have been on a solid decline in recent weeks. Cases by date on onset peaked August 25th, and hospitalizations peaked Sept. 7th. The nowcasting site covidestim.org has Georgia at a pandemic low Rt of 0.55 (on 10/8), which indicates infections are rapidly falling (anything under 1 indicates decreasing infections).
- A lot of recent media attention has been devoted to fear-mongering about kids and COVID, including wildly wrong numbers of children who have been newly hospitalized. Unfortunately, my page to track pediatric hospitalization data from HHS is not updating right now due a change in the data file, but the FAQ is still available. I am hoping to get this file working again soon. The data continues to be reassuring that kids typically have very mild cases of COVID and very rarely require hospitalization. Here’s some good news from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
- The most common risk factors for severe COVID have always been old age and obesity. If you are older or overweight/obese, and haven’t been vaccinated, I urge you to get vaccinated to protect yourself from severe outcomes from this disease. If you get COVID and have not been vaccinated, and have any risk factors at all, please contact your doctor urgently about getting monoclonal antibodies. They are free – paid for by the US government, but they must be given before you get seriously ill.
- There are still concerns about myocarditis risks from the mRNA vaccines in young people, especially boys and men <30. I have spoken with a mom in my area whose teen son experienced this troubling reaction after his second shot. The CDC and FDA continue to push forward with encouraging two doses for all ages 12 and up, while minimizing the myocarditis risks. 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)
- Read my response to the very flawed CDC report about COVID hospitalizations among teens.
- Vaccinations are now available to ages 12-15 under Emergency Use Authorization (Pfizer only). As of August 23, the Pfizer vaccine is FDA approved for ages 16 and up, under the brand name Comirnaty. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still under EUA for ages 18 and up, with full approval for Moderna expected soon. In Georgia, parental permission is required for anyone under 18. 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 still in the red zone for total (confirmed plus antigen) cases, where the daily average of total cases exceeds 25 per 100K. 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, Oct. 8, Georgia is at 27.7 daily average total cases per 100K (down from 33 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, Oct. 8, Georgia is at 194 weekly total cases per 100K (down from 231 last week) for confirmed and antigen cases combined. Unfortunately, this is still in 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. In the current wave, it looks like cases by onset peaked the week ending August 28th, but cases by report date peaked the following week (week ending Sept. 4). 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 716 confirmed deaths since last Friday.
You can see on the graph below that in the first half of 2021, we had a lot of weeks with a higher percentage of older deaths reported. This prevented the reported deaths from dropping quickly as we continued to audit and report deaths that occurred months ago. Now, as deaths have increased, we’re reporting a lot higher percentage of recent deaths.
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 hit their lowest point of the pandemic in early July 2021.
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 final three weeks. Deaths for recent weeks, especially the latest week (which is still preliminary) will increase further over the next few weeks. It appears the week ending Sept. 4 may be the peak of deaths by date of death for this wave, with a slow decline through September.
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.