An infectious disease expert at Emory University said he expects the new virus’ daily toll will continue to escalate in the coming weeks as Gov. Brian Kemp unveiled the state’s plan to ramp up testing.
Dr. Carlos del Rio told the Associated Press a model closely watched by epidemiologists predicts deaths in Georgia will peak around April 23, possibly with more than 80 people dying each day. He noted any model used to predict the toll of the virus has flaws.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported there are now 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Floyd County as of 7 p.m. Tuesday. That’s an increase of 19 cases from the same time Monday.
Eleven cases were attributed on Monday to the Rome Health and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home on Redmond Circle. A representative of SavaSeniorCare, the parent corporation of the nursing home, said Tuesday that two more cases were confirmed — for a total of 13.
Floyd County hospitals were treating 10 patients confirmed with COVID-19 as of Tuesday evening and were awaiting test results for 31 others.
The difference between state cases and hospital cases has to do with how those numbers are reported. The state reports cases by county of residence while hospitals report numbers by patients being treated. Patients treated at a local hospital may live in another county. Also, those who have tested positive but have mild or moderate symptoms may be released from a hospital to self-quarantine at home.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.
People are likely the most contagious when they’re symptomatic, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated — but they also may be contagious prior to showing symptoms.
Georgia cases increase as testing increases
Kemp announced a plan Tuesday to rapidly increase the availability of testing by using the collective laboratory resources under the University System of Georgia, Georgia Public Health Laboratory and Emory University.
The ramp-up of laboratory testing surge capacity began Tuesday and the state is expecting they’ll be able to process over 3,000 samples per day.
“Adequate testing for COVID-19 has continued to be a top priority for the Coronavirus Task Force as we fight this pandemic,” Kemp said in a statement.
“We hope this surge capacity plan will allow federal and state public health officials to gain a more complete picture of COVID-19’s impact on Georgia and better inform our collective decisions going forward,” he said.
Statewide, Georgia had 4,111 confirmed cases as of Tuesday night, over 1,000 more than the 3,032 reported Monday. While the virus is spreading, healthcare officials have stated many new cases are being uncovered because of better access to testing.
As of Tuesday, 16,181 tests had been administered by the state and private labs.
There were 885 Georgians hospitalized with the illness and 125 deaths. Many of those who have died resulting from a COVID-19 infection already had underlying health conditions, according to DPH reports.
Two Floyd County residents have died, a 75-year-old male and a 65-year-old female, and both had underlying health conditions.
Warnings from del Rio prompted the Georgia Municipal Association last week to urge leaders of all 538 Georgia cities to impose curfews and close some businesses to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Both Rome and Floyd County as well as Cave Spring have enacted social distancing orders. The area hasn’t seen the rapid, deadly growth of other counties, despite being the second county in Georgia to have a patient confirmed with COVID-19.
As of Tuesday Fulton County had 599 reported cases with 18 deaths. Dougherty County, with a much smaller population, had 466 cases and saw the number of deaths jump to 26.
Many metro-Atlanta counties, including DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett and Bartow, have had a rapid expansion of confirmed cases. Cobb is an outlier in that the county has seen 13 deaths, whereas DeKalb and Gwinnett have a similar number of infected patients but have only reported four and two deaths respectively.
In other parts of Georgia the number of reported infections has grown, as well as the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19. Two counties hit especially hard by deaths are Lee County, just north of Albany, with seven deaths, and Athens-Clarke County in Northeast Georgia with five deaths.
At this point there are only 20 counties in Georgia that have not reported at least one positive COVID-19 case. Walker County reported its first case Tuesday.