January 21, 2021
Cases & Testing
Cases are still very high, but are down 20% from a week ago. And testing is actually up 10% in the same time period. Most US states appear to have peaked, and it seems we can now confirm that the southern states, which were the last to start increasing this winter, are now following on the way down. We still high COVID hospitalizations right now, but they are down 5% from a week ago, and appear to be continuing in a downward trajectory.
The vaccine distribution is also improving in Georgia. We are currently in Phase 1A+, which includes healthcare workers, those in long-term care facilities, first responders, and anyone aged 65 or over. While state reporting has improved, the CDC reporting is still days behind for Georgia (and not for other states), so it’s hard to make comparisons. The Bloomberg vaccine tracker uses the higher of the two numbers between state and CDC dashboards, so I recommend using it. For more information on where to get a vaccine, or to see the latest numbers for Georgia, go to https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-vaccine. Over the past few Wednesdays, the number of people who received their first dose of the vaccine has gone from 52K to 123K to 283K to 536K as of last night, so we are making impressive progress.
Keep in mind that while our hospitals are stressed with COVID patients, they are equipped to handle patients of all kinds, even when they are very busy. I have heard too many stories of people forgoing necessary medical care because of fears of COVID or overwhelmed hospitals, and not going in for strokes, heart attacks, or other serious medical concerns. PLEASE do not hesitate to get medical attention if you need it for any reason.
The map below, which is also found on my Hospitalizations page shows the regional hotspots so you can see where cases are highest in the state. (If you’re not sure what county you’re in, the map on my County Changes page lets you hover over your county and it will show the hospital region and daily metrics.)
NOTE: I include antigen positive cases in my daily reports, but I continue to focus my analysis on confirmed cases, because we have test data available. Confirmed cases come from PCR tests, while antigen cases come from antigen (rapid) tests. There’s also uncertainty on the accuracy of antigen tests for screening asymptomatic people. While PCR tests have been criticized for being too sensitive, there have been many high-profile cases where groups who tested positive on antigen tests later test negative on confirmatory PCR tests. Finally, antigen case reporting is erratic and we don’t have details about when the cases were identified, so the trends are unclear. We’ve had two days in a row of huge antigen case reporting, but without test data or case onset dates, it’s really hard to draw conclusions from the data.
I continue to focus on hospital-related metrics more than raw case counts, so I’ve been thrilled to see these numbers dropping. I’ve been reporting on the increases in hospitalizations for weeks now, so it’s good to see some improvement in this area. However, we still have near-record COVID patients in Georgia hospitals, and hospitals are feeling strain. A big part of this is that Georgia has fewer hospital beds per capita than most other states. For example, Georgia has about the same hospital capacity as Missouri, despite having a population 75% larger than Missouri.
The CDC has a helpful tracker that shows the percentage of ER visits for COVID-Like Illness (CLI) in Georgia and other states. It appears that CLI peaked in Georgia, with the highest day being New Years Day. The 7-day average of CLI has been clearly headed in a downward direction as you can see in the graph below. You can also see that it closely tracks with the graph of COVID hospitalizations in Georgia hospitals.
The following table shows when the deaths reported Sunday-Wednesday occurred. There was a net change of 382 deaths since last Saturday, even more than what we saw in the first half of last week. Most of the recent deaths reported occurred in December and January, though there were 29 deaths reported in the past few days that occurred August through November. As I’ve said, based on our case data, and the increasing cases in older age groups, increased deaths were expected to appear in December and January, and now we are seeing those death reports come in significant numbers. December deaths are at 1417 now, and are expected to go up further, and unfortunately, with cases as high as they are right now, January deaths will most likely be much higher than December. However, December – February are always the highest months for deaths in Georgia, so it’s still unknown how much the increase in COVID deaths will exceed normal death patterns this winter. Some other causes of deaths may be down this winter, since the flu is almost non-existent this year. However, there are also reported increases in overdoses and other deaths due to our pandemic response.