By JEFF AMY, Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) — The number of COVID-19 cases is rising in Georgia, although infections in the state are not climbing as fast as those nationwide.
Even with relatively few infections reported Monday, the state’s seven-day average is close to 1,300, more than 10% above the recent bottom on Oct. 8. The number of people hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 has also been rising for a week, crossing back above 1,300 on Monday.
“Things are not going well for Georgia,” Amber Schmidtke, an epidemiologist who writes a daily analysis of Georgia’s number, wrote Monday.
She and other experts fear another jump like the one seen in June, in part because cases and hospitalizations never fell as low as they did in the spring.
One issue is that Georgia is still not including probable cases in its daily reports. Those cases are mostly diagnosed from rapid antigen tests, and many other states are counting them as positives. Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said recently that the state is working on a plan to report probable cases daily.
In numbers released Monday, the state Department of Public Health said Georgia had recorded 1,167 probable cases in the past week.
A ray of light for Georgia in the darkening picture is that the positivity rate has stayed level over the last two weeks at just above 6%, even as the number of DNA-based tests rose modestly, on average.
Georgia’s transmission rates still remain below those being seen nationwide, with the state ranking 35th per capita among states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico over the last two weeks, according to data collected by the The Associated Press.
The number of counties that the state lists as “emerging counties of interest,” where the respiratory illness may be spreading the most rapidly, rose from 43 last week to 56 this week. That included an increase in the number of suburban Atlanta counties on the list from six to 11, with Cobb County staying on the list. Fulton County dropped off that list this week, while DeKalb and Gwinnett counties stayed off it. Also on the list are Bibb County including Macon, Lowndes County including Valdosta, Whitfield County including Dalton and Columbia County in suburban Augusta.
Georgia has recorded more than 340,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus since March. As of Monday, the state had confirmed 7,657 COVID-19 deaths, remaining on pace for 10,000 this year.
While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
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Washington — Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, warned Sunday that the current wave of new coronavirus infections is likely to be the “biggest wave” the nation experiences before a vaccine.
“We’re going to have to endure this wave of spread right now,” Gottlieb said Sunday on “Face the Nation.” “And it’s probably likely to be the biggest wave that we endure without the benefit of a vaccinated population.”
There have been more than 8.1 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, and the death toll is approaching 220,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Hospitalizations are rising in 42 states, and 45 states have expanding epidemics, Gottlieb said.
“There’s really no backstop against the spread that we’re seeing,” he said, adding that this is the “most difficult phase of this epidemic.”
Gottlieb said the current uptick in coronavirus infections is occurring as states have left measures in place to mitigate the spread of the virus, including requiring masks in public and indoors, encouraging social distancing and limiting the number of people in restaurants and bars.
“If we weren’t taking those steps, if people weren’t wearing masks generally and some states weren’t adhering to some mitigation tactics and we weren’t testing and tracing, then we’d have much worse spread,” he said.
The latest surge in coronavirus cases comes as millions prepare to go to the polls for early voting or to cast their ballots on November 3, though election officials are encouraging voters to vote by mail or develop a plan to ensure they can cast their votes safely.
Gottlieb said precautions are being taken at polling places and warned the “biggest risks” are settings where people are more comfortable and may let their guards down.
“When you talk to the governors about where the spread is occurring, it’s occurring in congregate settings where people feel more comfortable, a local Elks Club, a large family gathering,” he said.
While coronavirus infections are rising, President Trump has returned to the campaign trail, holding large rallies with thousands in attendance, many of whom have not worn masks. Mr. Trump himself was diagnosed with the coronavirus this month and spent three days being treated for COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
Gottlieb said the actions from the Trump campaign are “problematic” and questioned what the strategy from the White House is to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“They’ve come out against universal masking. They’ve come out against testing asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic people. They say testing should be reserved just to the vulnerable. They want businesses and schools reopened, as we all do, and they’re against targeted mitigation like closing restaurants,” Gottlieb said of the White House. “There was criticism of New York when New York kept the restaurants closed. So it begs the question, what is the strategy? And I think the
Rates of Covid-19 among dentists were low in the late spring as dental practices reopened and patients returned, a report published Thursday by the American Dental Association suggests.
Researchers conducted a nationwide survey June 8 with responses from more than 2,000 dentists from across the country. Just 0.9 percent, they found, had either confirmed or probable cases of Covid-19.
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Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, it was widely believed that dentists would be at high risk of contracting Covid-19, as their work puts them in very close contact with patients and many of their procedures, which involve water and air spray, could generate virus-laden aerosol particles.
The survey also found that virtually all of the dentists — 99.7 percent — were using what was referred to as “enhanced infection control procedures.” They included screening protocols for patients and disinfection practices.
However, while nearly all dentists reported some use of personal protective equipment, only 73 percent of dentists reported wearing protective equipment in accordance with national guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That required the use of surgical masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection during procedures not expected to produce aerosols, as well as the use of N95 respirators for aerosol-generating procedures.
The lead author of the study, Cameron Estrich, a health data analyst at the American Dental Association, or ADA, said she was surprised by two things: the low rate of infection and the extremely high adoption of infection control measures.
“Pretty much all of the dentists that we surveyed had really stepped up their infection control and prevention procedures,” she said. “They had shut down their practices for a few months to get these all in place.”
Dr. Biana Roykh, an associate professor of dental medicine at Columbia University, said that while the findings are encouraging, it’s important to note that the survey was conducted in early June, when many practices may not have been fully operational and were limited to emergency visits only.
“It looks at a time when the pandemic was at its height and the experiences in the dental practices were probably more or less limited in terms of how much aerosols that we’re generating,” said Roykh, who wasn’t involved with the ADA report.
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In New York, for example, dentists weren’t allowed to fully reopen until May 31, just over a week before the survey was sent out.
Roykh said that while the findings are preliminary, they mirror what she has seen in her dental practice.
“Our experience with this specific pandemic shows that when we are compliant with good PPE measures, and health and safety controls are in place, that we are generally able to keep our workforce safe,” she said.
Renee Anthony, a professor of occupational and environmental health at the University of Iowa, said she is looking for data about infection rates of patients who have visited dental offices.