More than 500 additional cases of coronavirus and another 84 deaths from COVID-19 were confirmed in Georgia on Monday as the statewide death toll reached 1,000
As of 8:30 p.m. Monday, there had been 24,226 confirmed cases statewide and 1,000 deaths — a mortality rate of 4.1 percent out of known cases — according to the latest figures from the Georgia Department of Public Health. The state has not released information on how many people have recovered from the highly contagious virus.
In Barrow County, six more cases of coronavirus and a fourth death from COVID-19 were confirmed by the DPH on Monday. The death, confirmed in the department's earlier update at noon, was an 84-year-old female with an underlying medical condition.
There have now been 114 confirmed cases in Barrow County, but the number is likely much higher. On Sunday, Winder Health Care and Rehabilitation on East May Street confirmed that 15 more of its employees had tested positive, bringing the facility's total to 17 employees and two residents.
State officials have acknowledged a lag in the reporting due to the DPH's process of verifying information from hospitals, other health care facilities and coroners. The state has also had to grapple with the lack of readily-available testing for everyone.
The state also reported an additional 372 hospitalizations, bringing the total to 4,749 (19.6 percent of known cases) since the outbreak began. Of those, the state reports that 1,072 people have been admitted to intensive-care units.
The DPH reported that there have been 33 hospitalizations of Barrow County residents, but that was a large discrepancy from numbers officials with Northeast Georgia Health System released Monday. The system reported that 95 patients from Barrow County are being or have been treated across its facilities, and three people have died.
At Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow in Winder, 14 patients positive for COVID-19 and five more awaiting test results are currently being treated, while another 11 have been treated and released. The system reported an additional four positive patients at NGMC Barrow on Monday.
Elsewhere around Barrow, as of the Monday night update, Gwinnett County was at 1,546 cases and 52 deaths; Hall County was at 1,099 cases and 12 deaths (though NGHS officials have reported 15 deaths there); Clarke County was at 140 cases and 13 deaths; Walton County was at 100 cases and two deaths; Jackson County was at 77 cases and one death; Oconee County was at 57 cases and no deaths; Madison County was at 22 cases and one death; and Banks County was at 17 cases and no deaths.
Fulton County still has the most confirmed cases in the state (2,682) and has had 103 deaths, while Dougherty County has had the most confirmed deaths (114) and 1,480 cases.
More than 127,000 tests have been conducted and processed around Georgia — a sharp increase over the past week as the state has significantly ramped up its testing capacity and expanded its testing criteria.
All symptomatic people are now eligible to be tested. Health care workers, first responders and other people considered medically vulnerable are eligible to be tested whether they are experiencing symptoms or not. However, there is still no widespread testing mechanism in place for asymptomatic people — the CDC has said up to 25 percent of people with the virus may never exhibit signs but can still transmit it — and Gov. Brian Kemp said Monday the state currently ranks 36th in the nation in testing per capita.
"We have the bandwidth. We just need more Georgians to participate" in testing, Kemp said during a press conference at the State Capitol in Atlanta.
Kemp and his administration have made the ramping up of testing a top priority, especially as sectors of the state's battered economy have begun reopening. Through an order by Kemp last week, gyms, fitness centers, grooming salons, bowling alleys and other similar businesses were allowed to reopen Friday. Movie theaters were allowed to reopen Monday and restaurants were allowed to resume dine-in services — provided that a long list of requirements and guidelines are met and followed.
Despite widespread criticism over the last week, Kemp again on Monday defended his decision to ease restrictions. He said it was based on data that indicate the worst of the virus may have passed in Georgia and said he had the livelihoods of many business owners and employees in mind.
Kathleen Toomey, the state's public health commissioner, said the state had not met the federal requirements set forth by the Trump administration for a "phase 1" reopening but that it had met enough to feel comfortable proceeding. She added that the state was "approaching" a flattening of cases.
The mandatory, statewide shelter-in-place order is set to expire Thursday night, but Kemp did not say Monday whether he would lift it, adding he would have "a better idea in a day or two." He also urged the elderly and medically fragile to stay home through at least May 13 — the date the statewide public health emergency declaration is set to expire — though Kemp also didn't rule out extending that either.
“We really have to watch the data hard over the next two weeks,” he said.
Nationwide, there were 987,000 confirmed cases and more than 56,000 deaths as of 8 p.m. Monday.
Anyone who believes they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or believes they may have been exposed to the virus is advised to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or any medical facility. Only people who have been evaluated by public health officials at their local health department or a health care provider and assigned a PUI number will be referred to the drive-thru specimen collection sites.
In addition to the most common symptoms — fever, dry cough, shortness of breath — the CDC has recently added six more commonly-seen symptoms to its list. Those include chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and a loss of taste and/or smell.
A statewide COVID-19 hotline is available at 844-442-2681. You can also go to www.doineedacovid19test.com.
You can also now set up a free screening by going to AugustaHealth.org, downloading the AU Health ExpressCare app on your smartphone or calling 706-721-1852. Those who meet testing criteria will be contacted by staff to schedule a test at the closest or most convenient location, Kemp said.
Continue to check barrownewsjournal.com for the latest local and statewide updates on the coronavirus pandemic.