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Athens’ COVID-19 Numbers Continue to Improve

Credit: University of Georgia

Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health on vaccination progress and declining COVID-19 cases all point to progress toward a more normal way of life in the months ahead.

While cases still remain higher than during most of the pandemic, the data shows that cases are decreasing in Clarke County. The seven-day running average of new cases in Clarke County was down to 21 as of Feb. 23 from 40 on Feb. 11, and that number has been dropping consistently for the last four weeks. There have been 11,871 confirmed cases in Clarke County and another 2,074 positive cases from rapid antigen tests, for a total of 13,945. 

Hospitalizations increased by 28 last week, with a cumulative total of 450 hospitalizations for Region E as of Feb. 21. The percentage of patients in Region E hospitals with COVID-19 is now down to 19%. At 65, intensive care beds occupied fell below the normal capacity of 70 for the first time in weeks. The data suggest that ICUs aren’t as stressed as it was in January. 

Deaths increased by at least five last week, with 106 total confirmed deaths in Clarke County, and an additional five listed as probable deaths. Compared to recent weeks, this number is low and suggests that deaths, a lagging indicator, may be slowing down. 

At UGA, the data last week suggested that community spread on campus may be decreasing as well. There were a total of 105 positive cases on campus for the week of Feb. 8-14. That’s down from 115 the week before and 181 the previous week. Surveillance testing numbers at Legion Field have continued to hold steady, with more than 2,300 surveillance tests done each week consistently for the last five weeks. 

Great progress has been made on vaccinations in recent weeks. Just last week, the Georgia Department of Public Health introduced a new vaccination dashboard that includes far more access to detailed data about vaccination rates by county. As of Jan. 15, Clarke County had vaccinated approximately 4,000 people. Just a little over a month later, the DPH interactive vaccine dashboard showed that Clarke County has administered 27,095 doses of the vaccine—17,711 first doses and 9,384 second doses. Announcements in recent weeks suggest that supply will continue to improve in the coming weeks and months.

While Georgia still lags in vaccination rates nationally, the state has administered about 1.6 million, including 1.1 million first doses and 500,000 second doses. Supply still hasn’t increased enough to expand access to the Phase 1B population. However, the FDA may approve the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use at the end of the month. That has the potential to improve supply problems drastically.