Virus update 2

Roughly 48 hours after the 1,000th death from COVID-19 in Georgia was confirmed, the statewide death toll is now on the brink of 1,100. 

As of 9:25 p.m. Wednesday, there had been 25,671 confirmed coronavirus cases and at least 1,098 deaths (a mortality rate of 4.3 percent out of known cases), according to the latest totals from the Georgia Department of Public Health. About 800 more cases had been confirmed by the department on Wednesday. 

In Barrow County, another seven cases were confirmed Wednesday, bringing the countywide total to 131. Four deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the county — a 66-year-old male, a 91-year-old female, a 64-year-old male and an 84-year-old female. The first three were reported to have underlying medical conditions but the 84-year-old female's latest status for underlying conditions was listed as "unknown" by the department. 

The latest numbers aren't a real-time representation of the extent of the virus, which makes daily trends more difficult to track.

The state has not publicly provided the number of active cases per county and DPH officials have acknowledged there is a lag in their data from the time cases are first tested and confirmed to when they are submitted to the state for reporting purposes.

Since the DPH updated its online tracker Monday with more interactive graphs and more-frequently updated totals (every hour as opposed to twice daily), officials also noted that the number of hospitalizations since the outbreak began (5,077 as of 9:25 p.m. Wednesday) only accounts for people who were already hospitalized at the time they tested positive. Those who were hospitalized after testing positive aren't counted in the total. 

The state is currently reporting that 41 Barrow County residents have been hospitalized. But Northeast Georgia Health System officials said Tuesday that 101 Barrow residents had been treated across their facilities. 

As of Wednesday morning, NGHS reported 10 hospitalizations of patients confirmed to have COVID-19 at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, down from 11 on Tuesday and 14 on Monday. Other numbers specific to NGMC Barrow weren't available Wednesday. On Tuesday, officials said there were five patients being treated there who were awaiting test results.

As of Wednesday, across the whole system, NGHS reported 289 total current patients — 159 positive for COVID-19 and 130 awaiting test results. The total of 289 was up from 265 on Tuesday, but 16 more patients were also discharged, bringing that total 285. 

Thirty deaths from COVID-19 have now been reported at NGHS facilities (up from 28 Tuesday). Nineteen of those were Hall County residents, according to officials. 

NGHS updates its totals every weekday morning. 

KEMP DECISION EXPECTED THURSDAY

With the statewide shelter-in-place order set to expire Thursday night, Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to announce whether that order will be lifted. 

Kemp issued orders last week allowing close-contact businesses that had been shuttered for the past month to reopen and for restaurants to resume dine-in services. 

The state's elderly and medically fragile residents have been urged to continue to remain home as much as possible through at least May 13, the date the statewide public health emergency declaration is set to expire. Kemp said earlier this week he wasn't sure if the recommendation would be extended.

The governor has faced widespread criticism for his decisions to ease restrictions at this time, particularly from public health experts who have warned that "reopening" too soon could trigger another spike in infections and deaths. 

Kemp has defended his actions as a "measured" step to attempt to rejuvenate a battered economy. He and other state officials, including DPH commissioner Kathleen Toomey, have cited "encouraging" data that they say indicate the state has already seen the worst of the virus and is approaching a plateau. They have also touted a substantial boost in the state's testing capacity and relaxed criteria to encourage more Georgians to participate. 

Nationwide, there were more than 1 million confirmed cases and nearly 61,000 deaths as of 9:45 p.m. Wednesday.

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.

Continue to check barrownewsjournal.com for the latest local and statewide updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

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