Cobb public health alert issued as COVID cases surpass 5,000

Dr. Janet Memark
Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health

The director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health issued a public health alert Wednesday as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb substantially, and with more people being hospitalized due to the virus.

Dr. Janet Memark said in the alert that there is “evidence of increased transmission throughout our community, outside of additional testing access, as supported by positivity rates at our testing sites that have surpassed 10%. This trend has been on an upward trajectory over the last few weeks. Last week, we saw the highest number of reported cases in our district since the pandemic began.”

(You can read the full health alert here.)

The age groups of those testing positive in recent weeks also has been trending younger, especially between the ages of 20 and 40, she said.

Memark said that while the numbers of COVID-19-related 911 calls, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and need for intensive-care beds has increased in recent weeks, the death rate “appears to be in decline.”

She said that’s likely the result of younger, healthier people testing positive and recovering, and due to healthcare system response to treating the virus.

Memark said more than 300 businesses in Cobb and Douglas counties have been affected by COVID and staff epidemiologists are investigating 75 outbreaks.

An “outbreak” is classified as when two or more individuals that are positive in the same place. In a nursing home, one individual is considered to be an outbreak.

Valerie Crow, a spokeswoman for Cobb and Douglas Public Health, said she could not release any information about businesses experiencing outbreaks due to federal health privacy laws.

There were 5,081 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cobb County on Wednesday, 204 more case than the 4,877 reported on Tuesday by the Georgia Department of Public Health, which updates figures at 3 p.m. daily.

Last week, Cobb reported 685 positive cases, a one-week record.

The Cobb death toll rose by two on Wednesday to 245, the second-highest total in Georgia. Fulton County has reported 314 deaths.

The cumulative hospitalization numbers in Cobb County have gone up to 872, up from 861 on Monday.

Cobb’s cumulative test positivity rate—the percentage of confirmed cases against the number of people tested—is at 5.74 percent, but Memark said in the last few weeks, as noted above, that number has in some cases more than doubled.

On June 26, the last date for which figures are available, the test positivity rate was 9.97 percent (see graphic below). The day before, the figure was nearly 13 percent, the highest since early May, not long after Cobb and Georgia began reopening some businesses and public activities.

Those figures are only for people tested at the Cobb and Douglas Public Health testing facility at Jim Miller Park, where 14,153 total tests have been conducted.

Cobb DPH Test Positivity Rate 7.1.20

(You can find more Cobb COVID data here.)

Cobb’s figures are reflected in similar trends in Georgia, which has 2,827 deaths, 11,275 hospitalizations and has 84,237 positive COVID cases.

More than 855,000 people have had viral COVID tests in Georgia, with a positivity rate of nine percent, and nearly 158,000 additional antibody tests have been conducted (Cobb isn’t doing antibody tests).

On Wednesday 22 more deaths were reported in Georgia, along with 2,946 cases and 224 new hospitalizations. Nearly 14 percent of the reported 21.508 viral tests were positive for COVID.

The rising numbers have prompted Gov. Brian Kemp to extend the state’s public health emergency to Aug. 11 and continue social distancing restrictions. While he’s calling on Georgians to wear face masks, he’s not mandating it, although on Wednesday he said that having a college football season would be a “tall task” if COVID numbers stay on the rise.

In her order, Memark said those who are medically fragile should shelter-in-place through July 15, leaving home only for food and for medical reasons.

For everyone else, she’s encouraging familiar steps to help prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Frequently wash their hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Stand 6 feet away from others when outside their home
  • Wear cloth masks when social distancing is not consistently possible
  • Stay at home when you are sick
  • Continue to frequently disinfect your home and business
  • Avoid large gatherings (of more than 50 people).

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