Saturday, March 28, 2020

Clarke And Barrow Counties Report Deaths From COVID-19; Confirmed Cases In Oconee And Surrounding Counties Stable

***Number Of Cases In State Increased By 80 Since Noon***

Update 7 p.m. 3/29/2020: The number of COVID-19 Confirmed Cases in the 7 p.m. Daily Status Report for both Barrow and Walton counties was reduced by 1 from the noon report. The figures for Oconee, Clarke, and the other surrounding counties remained unchanged. The state added only 32 cases from the noon report, bringing the total to 2,683, and three deaths, bringing the total to 83.

Georgia reported 79 deaths due to COVID-19 in the 7 p.m. Daily Status Report today (Saturday), up from 69 in today’s noon report. The rate of death to confirmed cases now stands at 3.2 percent.

The 7 p.m. Daily Status Report included rudimentary data on the death in Clarke County and the death in Barrow County first included in the noon status report.

The Clarke County death was of a 78-year-old woman. It is not known if she had underlying health conditions.

The Barrow County death was of a 66-year-old male with underlying conditions.

The age of the person whose death in Clarke County had been reported by the Department of Health on March 23 was changed from 67 to 60. He is described as having had underlying conditions.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Oconee County, Clarke County, and the surrounding counties was unchanged in the 7 p.m. report from what had been shown in the noon report today.

In the state, the number of cases increased by 80 from noon today, to 2,446, and the number of hospitalizations increased from 617 to 660.

Analysis of the trends from the report of the first case in the state on March 2 until today offers no evidence yet of a flattening of the curve.

Importance Of Trend Data

Gov. Brian Kemp announced that the Georgia Department of Health would release data daily on COVID-19 on March 12, and the first data released were for March 11.

Click To Enlarge

I began tracking these reports on March 14, but I didn’t realize until March 17 that the daily report each day replaced the report from a day earlier. I began copying the report from that day forward.

I contacted the information office of the Department of Public Health on March 17 and asked for trend data. I was told I would receive a spreadsheet containing that information, but, even after several follow-up contacts by phone and email, I have not received those data.

Using a website created by three volunteers called The Covid Tracking Project and Wikipedia, I have recreated data going back to March 2, when the first two cases in Georgia were reported in Fulton County.

I have tried to resolve minor discrepancies between these sources through media reports.

March 18 Key

The results are shown in the four charts below combined into a single chart. ( I used an earlier version of this chart in a post on March 27.)

Chart 2 (Click To Enlarge)

The Daily Status Report released data on number of confirmed cases from March 11 but only began releasing data on the number of tests on March 18 and on hospitalizations on March 25.

The first data point for March 25 for hospitalizations was from the 7 p.m. Daily Status Report. In all other cases in the charts, going back to the March 11 Daily Status Report, data are from the noon Daily Status report, rather that the 7 p.m Daily Status Report.

The 7 p.m. release for the Daily Status report was initiated on March 20.

The four charts are striking in that they show more clearly than the first chart above, which begins March 15 when the first two cases were reported in Clarke County, the nonlinear nature of the growth after March 18.

So far, there is no evidence of the flattening of the curve in Georgia.

Not shown is the death rate, or the number of deaths divided by the number of confirmed cases. It has hovered around 3 percent during the reporting period. It was 3.6 percent on March 21, compared with 3.2 percent in the 7 p.m. report this evening.

Counties Compared

The Georgia Department of Health has released the data by county since the advent of the Daily Status Report.

Chart 3 (Click To Enlarge)

Georgia’s 159 counties are all relatively small in comparison with counties in most other states and particularly in western states.

Georgia’s counties also vary by size within the state.

Oconee County is 182 square miles. Clarke County, the smallest county in the state, is 121 square miles. (Oconee County was split off from Clarke County in 1875). Barrow is 163 square miles.

So a comparison among these three counties in terms of the chance of exposure to COVID-19 by using the simple numbers makes some sense.

Someone at a randomly chosen spot in Oconee County is less likely to confront a COVID-19 exposure than someone at a randomly chosen spot in Clarke County.

Oglethorpe County, which currently has no cases, is 442 square miles in size, and Walton County, which has 2 confirmed cases, is 330 square miles. So comparisons by county is more problematic as the group of counties increases.

Andrea Wellnitz, one of the founders of Oconee Progressives, which describes itself as a non-partisan, socio-political group, suggested I also use a ratio of confirmed COVID-19 cases to population to help people understand the risk in the counties. (I appreciate the suggestion.)

That comparison is shown in the Chart above. Basically, it shows that the chances of a person someone meets in Oconee and a person someone meets in Clarke having the virus is not greatly different.

Given that many of the nearly 39,000 students at the University of Georgia, counted as part of the Clarke County estimated population of 128,331, are not in town, however, the actual ratio for Clarke County is likely to be higher than shown in the chart.

The Oconee County population estimate for July of 2019 is 40,280, or less than half that of Clarke County if all of the students were removed. (Of course, not all have left the county.)

Georgia Municipal Association

The Georgia Municipal Association has put together two online presentations by Dr. Carlos del Rio, infectious disease expert, a professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and executive associate dean for Emory at Grady Memorial Hospital, to help its members predict the outcome of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Georgia Municipal Association Presentation (Click To Enlarge)

Oconee County Commission Chair John Daniell told me that he has watched both of these.

Del Rio said the “point of no return for intervention to prevent hospital overload” is between March 24 and 29.

He said if no action in the state had been taken, more than 70 percent of the population would have been infected, hospitals would have been overloaded by April 7, and the estimated number of deaths would have been 211,000.

Three months of social distancing–similar to what is now being ordered in most of the state--will result in more than a 70 percent infection rate, hospitals being overloaded by April 20 and an estimated 158,000 deaths, according to del Rio.

Three months of shelter-in-place, according to del Rio, would result in about 5 percent of the population being infected, no strain on the hospitals, and about 6,000 deaths.

“This is going to be long (3 to 4 months), and there will be significant pain,” del Rio said.

Local Emergency Order

The Georgian Municipal Association has urged municipal leaders in all of Georgia’s 538 cities to declare public health emergencies and has listed 10 city and county governments that already have done so, including the Mayor and Commission of Athens-Clarke County.

A group of 70 medical professionals asked the Oconee County Board of Commissioners on March 23 to issue a round-the-clock shelter-in-place order for all residents of the county as part of an emergency order.

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners instead issued on March 26 a less restrictive Local Emergency Order under its Emergency Management Ordinance.

When Gov. Kemp issued a state-wide state of emergency on March 14, according to the county web site, Oconee County’s Emergency Management Ordinance was activated, placing Oconee County in a local state of emergency, according to the county web site.

Restaurants and other eating establishments within Oconee County were to cease offering dine-in and/or outdoor/patio service on March 26.

All persons ordered by the Department of Public Health to isolate, quarantine, or shelter in place within their homes or place of residence were ordered to comply with the order.

The following populations are specifically included: residents of nursing homes or long-term care facilities, those with chronic lung disease, individuals undergoing cancer treatment, those with confirmed or suspected cases of Coronavirus, or those who have had contact with an individual diagnosed with Coronavirus.

No business, establishment, corporation, non-profit, or organization can allow more than 10 people to be gathered at a single location, unless individuals can maintain six feet of separation at all times.

All residents of Oconee County are strongly urged to remain at home unless they are engaged in necessary and vital business, according to the order.

Sheriff Scott Berry Comments

Athens-Clarke County is listed as one positive example on the Georgia Municipal Association web site.

The Athens-Clarke County ordinance declares that “All individuals currently living within the territorial limits of the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke, County, Georgia (the “County”) shall shelter at their place of residence.”

“All persons may leave their residences only for Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Businesses,” according to the ordinance.

“All businesses with a facility in the County, except Essential Businesses...are required to cease all activities at facilities located within the County except Minimum Basic Operations,” according to the ordinance.

Oconee County Sheriff Scott Berry has made a number of critical comments regarding the Athens-Clarke County ordinance on his Facebook page.

On March 24, he noted that Clyde Armory Inc. of Athens was challenging the ordinance and said “I knew there would be a legal challenge to the ACC ordinance. Personally I think it's a good thing. People should challenge the Governments exercise of emergency powers.”

“I am simply amazed at the number of people who would readily give sweeping powers to the government to lock people in their home and close down their businesses,” he wrote in a post on March 26.

The Sheriff is Oconee County’s elected law enforcement officer and answers not to the Board of Commissioners but directly to the voters.


Unknown said...


Thank you so much for your dedication to Oconee County's safety and welfare. I find that many people in my area of Oconee County are unaware of the Oconee County Declaration of Emergency and unaware of the repercussions of not acting quickly to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Thank you for this platform to influence our lawmakers to protect us as this is the mission of our government. We need our lawmakers to act now. This is the letter that I wrote Gov. Kemp and my state senator Bill Cowsert and my state representative Marcus Wiedower:

As a retired career health care worker, I beg you to please encourage Gov. Kemp to issue a Stay-at-Home order for the state of Georgia similar to the one the governor of the state of North Carolina is ordering effective Monday. We now have 2446 tested cases , 79 deaths, and 660 patients hospitalized. There are countless more cases that have not been identified due to testing shortages.
Many people here in Oconee County are not taking this situation seriously. We have an emergency declaration that few seem to even be aware of. People are not practicing social distancing in the grocery stores and home improvement stores even though they have been instructed to do so. We can prevent deaths of patients and health care workers by acting now. Please help our great state of Georgia.

Bonnie Jones
Athens, Ga 30605

gordana said...

Thank you very much for doing this for our local data. I found really informative and useful modes of presentation of information used on the site linked below. They use both logarithmic and linear coordinates to better see trends in the epidemic. They also shift the graphs so that they all start at the time there are the same initial number of cases, so the horizontal axes counts days from some fixed stage in the epidemic. For example, if we move the graph of Oconee to match the first day with 3 cases to Athens day with 3 cases, we will see that their paces pretty much match. One just started a few days later.

Thank you very much for your work.
Gordana Matic

Anonymous said...

Just received email from C. J. Worden letting us know that the BOC will have meeting online. However, they are having too many people at meeting to meet safety standards. The BOC clowns still don’t get the the measure of the pandemic and how to maintain a safety protocol.

You know this group isn’t taking this seriously when the email starts with “I hope you had a great weekend.” Tell that the healthcare industry. It is an embarrassment to read or hear how our local government is approaching this health hazard.

-Annie Nomis