By Beau Evans, Capitol Beat News Service
Nearly eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Georgia officials and public-health experts are eying the upcoming winter season with caution amid a recent uptick in positive coronavirus cases and the dual impacts of the flu.
Cases of COVID-19, which had killed 8,156 people by Friday and sickened hundreds of thousands more in Georgia, have declined sharply since a peak in late July when the state averaged more than 3,500 cases per day, according to state Department of Public Health (DPH) data.
But cases have crept back up in recent weeks from a daily average of just under 1,200 cases on Oct. 1 to more than 1,700 cases as of Thursday. The DPH data also shows the state’s case positivity rates and hospitalization counts have ticked up over the past few weeks.
Georgia’s recent increases mirror a spiking trend of new COVID-19 cases across the U.S. that soared to more than 113,000 nationwide on Thursday – though Georgia’s case rates have not risen so steeply as in many other states, said Jose Cordero, an epidemiology professor at the University of Georgia (UGA).
“Right now, we are in an upward trend,” Cordero said. “When you have a virus like [COVID-19], you have it not in a single wave but in multiple waves. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing.”
Georgia might even experience back-to-back waves of increasing COVID-19 infections if people abandon masks, social distancing and other safety precautions during the holiday season, said Isaac Fung, an associate professor of epidemiology at Georgia Southern University’s Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health.
With cold temperatures not yet present in Georgia, Fung traced the current creep in positive cases largely to people who have disregarded safety measures as the pandemic rolls on without a vaccine likely available until next year.