Friday, January 21, 2022

Northeast Health District, Area Hospitals Report Some Easing Of COVID-19 Cases; Oconee County Schools Cases Increase

***Confirmed COVID-19 Deaths In Oconee, Clarke***

The 10-county Northeast Health District added 6,422 new cases of COVID-19 in the last seven days, and 17 confirmed deaths from the disease.

One of the confirmed deaths was in Oconee County, and three were in Clarke County.

The average number of added cases per day in the last seven days was 917.4 compared with 1,074.6 in the nine days ending on Jan. 14.

The Georgia Department of Public Health did not release its usual Daily Status Report on Jan. 6 or 7, citing unspecified problems with its Electronic Laboratory Reporting system, necessitating the nine-day average computation last week

Oconee County added 518 cases on Friday, or an average of 70.4 cases per day, compared with 74 new cases in the nine days ending on Jan. 14, or 80.4 cases per day.

Clarke County added 1,660 new cases in the seven days ending on Friday, compared with 2,445 new cases in the nine days ending on Jan. 14. The 1,660 new cases on Friday is an average of 237.1 cases per day, compared with an average of 271.7 cases per day in the nine days ending on Jan. 14.

Rolling Averages

The seven-day rolling average of added cases in Oconee County on Friday per 100,000 population was 180.8. and it was 187.0 in Clarke County.

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On Jan. 14, those rolling averages had been 168.2 in Oconee County and 198.2 in Clarke County.

The unstandardized rolling average of added cases in Oconee County on Friday was 75.6 compared with 69.9 on Friday of last week.

In Clarke County, the unstandardized seven-day rolling average of added cases on Friday was 240.6, compared with 254.4 on Friday of last week.

The Oconee County confirmed death from COVID-19 was of a 56-year-old female without a chronic condition. The death is reported in the Department of Public Health records to have occurred on Jan. 7.

The Clarke County confirmed COVID-19 deaths were of 61-year-old female without a chronic condition, an 81-year-old male with a chronic condition, and an 82-year-old male without a chronic condition.

Oconee County now has 76 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 going back to the beginning of 2020, and Clarke County has 185.

The remaining 13 confirmed COVID-19 deaths in the Northeast Health District in the last seven days were in Barrow (4), Elbert (1), Jackson (2), Oglethorpe (1), and Walton (5) counties.

The Northeast Health District now has recorded 1,335 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The Northeast Health District had 126 “probable” deaths from COVID-19 on Friday, the same as a week ago.

Oconee County Schools

As of the end of classes on Thursday, Oconee County Schools had recorded 603 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year on Aug. 4, based on data released by the schools in response to open records requests filed by a group of parents.

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The 603 cases are an increase of 84 from Thursday of last week.

Since the beginning of the school on Jan. 4 year, Oconee County Schools had added 175 cases. It had recorded 428 cases in all of the first half of the school year through Dec. 28.

The parents are reporting the data released to them as a result of the open records requests on the Safety First Facebook page, but they also have released the data to me for my own analysis. 

Of the 175 cases recorded since classes began three weeks ago, my analysis shows that 38 or 21.7 percent are of staff, with the remaining 137 for students.

Only a little more than 11 percent of the total full-time staff (including faculty) and students at Oconee County Schools are staff.

Of the 38 staff cases, 26 (68.4 on a percentage basis) were at the system's seven primary and elementary schools, four were at the system's two middle schools (10.5 percent), and eight were at the two high schools (21.1 percent).

The analysis shows that the student cases are disproportionally at the lower grades.

Of the 137 student cases, 76 (55.5 percent) were at the elementary school level, 21 (15.3 percent) were at the middle school level, and 40 (29.2) percent were at the high school level.

Based on October enrollment figures, 44.0 percent of the students in Oconee County Schools are in the elementary school grades, 23.3 percent are at the elementary school level, and 32.7 percent are in the two high schools.

Active Cases Counted

Oconee County Schools releases to the public only the number of Active Cases in the schools at the end of the class week.

In its report on Friday, Oconee County Schools reported 32 Active COVID-19 Cases, down from 48 the week earlier.

On Dec 27, 2021, the CDC shortened the recommended quarantine period from 10 to five days, making comparisons with data from last year of little value.

Based on the records released to the parents who filed the open records request, Oconee County Schools, is using an even shorter period.

In the data released to the parents, Oconee County Schools records the Date of Positive Test Result and the Return Date. After the return date, a case is stricken through, or marked as inactive.

In the four days from Monday through Thursday, Oconee County Schools declared Inactive 28 students and staff who had tested positive earlier.

Based on those records, 12 of those cases had a gap of five or more days between the positive test and the date the student or staff returned to school, four had a gap of four days, six had a gap of three days, three had a gap of two days, and two had a gap of one day.

The 13 most recent cases of a person being declared inactive after a positive test result all showed a gap between positive test and return to school of less than five days.

The number of Active Cases of 32 would be at least six cases higher if the five-day quarantine had been used rather than a shorter time period.

In one case, the positive test was dated as one day after the student had been declared Inactive and returned to classes. Oconee County Schools reported recording the case two days after the student returned to class.

No explanation was offered for this inconsistency.

NOTE: Director of Communications Anisa Sullivan Jimenez sent me an email on the morning of 1/25/2022 explaining the time period between reported date of positive tests and return to school this way: "The beginning of a five-day period is the first day of symptoms; therefore, if an individual reports a positive test and returns to school two days later, it is because it has been five or more days since symptoms began."

School Age Data, Test Positivity Rates

Oconee County added 122 cases among those aged 5 to 17 in the week ending at the beginning of the day on Jan. 20, according to the School Aged COVID-19 Surveillance Data released by the Department of Public Health on Friday.

The report showed an addition of 512 cases across all age groups in the last week, with 37 of them for children under five years of age, 26 for persons 18 to 22, and 327 for those persons 23 years old and older.

The percentages of added cases that were for persons 5 to 17 years old was 23.8 on Jan. 20, compared with 18.4 percent a week earlier. That percentage has increased each of the last three weeks.

The percentage of cases for those 0 to 4 years old also increased, to 7.2 percent from 3.7 percent.

These cases are based on results of the rapid antigen and molecular tests.

In Oconee County, the seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate of the more robust molecular PCR test for COVID-19 was 35.5 percent on Friday, down from the 40.7 on Friday of last week. The PCR test is considered to be the more reliable of the tests.

In Clarke County on Friday, the seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate of PCR tests was 28.9 percent on Friday, down from 34.3 on Friday of last week.

University, Hospital Reports

The University of Georgia on Wednesday, in its COVID-19 Health and Exposure Updates, reported 992 positive COVID-19 tests, up from 852 in the revised estimate from the previous week.

The report on Wednesday covered the period of Jan. 10 to 16.

The University reported 2,343 walk-in tests were performed on individuals by the University Health Center in the week ending on Jan. 16. The University resumed session on Jan. 10.

The positivity rate for the walk-in tests performed in the week ending on Jan. 16 was 14.7 percent, up from the 13.3 percent reported in the week ending Jan. 9.

The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported on Friday that the number of COVID-19 patients at area hospitals was 245, down from 278 on Jan. 14.

The number of ICU beds in use was 74, up from 68 last Friday, and the number of adult ventilators in use was 48, up from 44 a week earlier.

The listed number of available ICU beds at area hospitals is 70.

News Release

Piedmont Athens Regional issued a news release on Friday stating that "Visitors and patients at Piedmont Athens Regional must now wear medical masks, as opposed to cloth masks, when at any facility within the Piedmont Athens system.

"The goal of the updated masking policy is to prevent the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant of COVID-19," according to the release.

"The new rule applies across the Piedmont system to visitors, patients and staff," the release states.

"Surgical masks, KN95 or N95 masks are accepted. If a patient or visitor does not have an appropriate mask, hospital staff will provide one," the release said.

Vaccine Updates

According to the raw data behind the Department of Public Health Vaccine Distribution Dashboard for Friday, 48.0 percent of the residents of the Northeast Health District had at least one dose of a vaccine and 44.4 percent were fully vaccinated.

Those percentages were changed just slightly from a week ago, when 47.9 percent of the residents of the District had at least one dose of the vaccine and 44.2 percent were fully vaccinated.

In Oconee County, 60.3 percent of the population has at least one dose in Friday’s report, and 56.6 percent is fully vaccinated. Those figures had been 60.2 percent and 56.5 percent a week ago.

In Clarke County, 50.8 percent of the population has as least one dose and 47.0 percent is fully vaccinated. Those figures were 50.6 percent and 46.8 percent last week.

In the Northeast Health District as a whole, 18.2 percent of the population has received a booster. Those figures are 26.0 percent in Oconee County and 21.6 percent in Clarke County.

Of those who are fully vaccinated, 41.0 percent in the District have received a booster. Those figures are 45.9 percent in Oconee County and 45.9 percent in Clarke County.

Last week, of those who are fully vaccinated in the Northeast Heath District, 39.8 percent had received a booster. Those figures were 44.8 percent in Oconee County and 44.9 percent in Clarke County.

Oconee County leads the Northeast Health District in the percentage of the population with at least one dose, the percentage fully vaccinated, and the percentage with a booster.

The percentages reported here differ from those on the Vaccine Dashboard because the Department of Public Health uses old projections--and lower numbers--for the populations of the counties.

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