The Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency reported on Friday that area hospitals had 23 COVID-19 patients, down from the 29 cases reported last Friday and from 56 reported three weeks earlier.
The number of ICU beds in use on Friday was 76, the same as a week earlier, and the number of adult ventilators in use was 24, down from 30 on last Friday.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported seven new confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in its report on Wednesday, up from the five reported a week earlier.
None of the newly reported confirmed COVID-19 deaths was in Oconee County or Clarke County.
The Georgia Department of Public Health also reported that the Northeast Health District added 991 new cases of COVID-19 in the week ending on Sept. 21, based on the Department’s electronic tracking system.
That number of added cases on Wednesday was more than double the 446 added on Sept. 14, driven by unusually large numbers of cases recorded in both Oconee and Clarke counties on Wednesday.
It isn’t possible to know from the data released by the Department of Public Health if the number of cases reported in the two counties on Wednesday was the result of a recording error or a backlog of cases from earlier weeks that only was picked up by the state recording system on Wednesday.
The Northeast Health District includes Oconee and Clarke counties. The other counties are Barrow, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Madison, Morgan, Oglethorpe, and Walton.
Although the Department of Public Health is releasing a report only weekly, it is gathering data on a daily basis, and the weekly report includes a data file containing case counts each day, ending on a Wednesday.
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The Department of Public Health switched to weekly, rather than daily, case counts in April in part because of a concern that its counts under-represent the actual number of cases.
At-home test results are not included in the electronic reporting system.
The average number of added cases per day in the last seven days ending on Sept. 21 in the Northeast Health District was 141.6, compared with 63.7 last Wednesday.
An examination of the data for the 10 counties shows that the increase was due largely to the extraordinary number of cases added in both Oconee and Clarke counties.
Oconee County added 307 cases in the seven days ending on Wednesday. The county added 21 cases in the seven days ending on Sept. 14.
Clarke County added 205 new cases in the seven days ending on Sept. 21. It had added 111 new cases in the week ending on Sept. 14.
The unstandardized rolling average of added cases in Oconee County on Wednesday was 44.7. It had been 2.9 on Sept. 14.
On Tuesday, the unstandardized seven-day rolling average had been 5.3.
That average shot up on Wednesday because of the addition of 279 cases on Wednesday. Nine had been added the day before, and no cases had been on Sunday and Monday.
In Clarke County, the same pattern emerged.
The unstandardized seven-day rolling average of added cases on Wednesday was 30.9. compared with 15.9 on Sept. 14.
Clarke County added 150 cases on Wednesday, after adding 21 the day before and no cases the day before that.
The unstandardized seven-day rolling average of added cases was 13.3 on Tuesday, compared with the 30.9 on Wednesday.
The Department of Public Health records both the date when cases are reported to it and, when possible, the date the COVID symptoms first manifested themselves.
In both Oconee and Clarke counties on Wednesday, no cases have yet been dated as occurring on Wednesday.
It will be necessary to wait until the Department of Public Health releases its report next Wednesday to know if the numbers this week are the result of a reporting error or a backlog of cases that only were reported on Wednesday of this week.
The confirmed deaths from COVID-19 reported in the Wednesday Department of Public Health report were in Barrow County (1), Jackson County (2), Madison County (1), Oglethorpe County (1), and Walton County (2).
The 10-county Northeast Health District now has 1,660 confirmed COVID-19 deaths since February of 2020, or 313.1 deaths per 100,000 population.
The Northeast Health District also reported 179 “probable” deaths from COVID-19 on Wednesday, the same number as a week earlier.
Focus On Hospital Reports
In its announcement in April, the Georgia Department of Public Health said “Given the number of at-home COVID tests that do not get reported, there is now a greater focus on other indicators.”
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The announcement directed attention to the data released by the Georgia Hospital Association and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
The hospital data available for the area include the 10 counties in the Northeast Health District plus Hart and Franklin counties. The data are dominated by St. Mary’s and Piedmont Regional in Athens-Clarke County.
Neither Oconee County Schools nor the University of Georgia is any longer reporting COVID-19 cases.
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The Centers for Disease Control and prevention rates the Transmission Rate of COVID-19 in Oconee and Clarke counties as High, based on total number of new cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days and the percentage of Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests that are positive during the last seven days, ending on last Thursday.
The CDC now lists 85 out of Georgia’s 159 counties as having Transmission Rates lower than High, two of them, Walton and Madison, in the Northeast Health District.
Last week, the number of counties not rated as Red was 24, and it had been 18 the week earlier.
The CDC scale is High (Red), Substantial (Orange), Moderate (Yellow), or Low (Blue).