By Beau Evans / Capitol Beat, Nugget Staff Report
The local COVID-19 count continues to sharply increase in Lumpkin County, according to reports from the Georgia Department of Public Health. However, hospitalization rates aren’t following at the same steep rate.
Last week the total number of locals coronavirus cases grew from 701 to 787, as of Monday.
Hospitalizations grew from 76 to 80 over the week. Fortunately the death rate, of 12 fatalities for the county, did not grow for the second week in a row.
As Labor Day loomed, state officials were urging Georgians to use caution over the holiday.
In a news conference Wednesday, Wu advised people to avoid traveling if they have come into contact with anyone infected with COVID-19 and to abstain from businesses like restaurants where staff do not wear masks properly.
Keeping space between people is critical from reducing the chances for viral transmission, even in outdoor areas where it may seem safer to congregate more closely, Wu said. He advised against large gatherings like parties for the time being.
“I encourage travelers and the general public to really internalize this distancing,” Wu said. “Redefine what you what you consider what is your personal space when you’re out and about.”
Wu also recommended routine use of hand sanitizer, staying separated from others as much as possible on airplanes or in airport terminals and getting a flu shot to reduce the chances for a concurrent flu season with COVID-19.
“Please travel safely, do your best, take your precautions,” Wu said. “I think it can be done if everyone does it together.”
While the state has made strides since a late July peak, Georgia was still seeing a rolling seven-day average of around 2,000 cases per day as of Tuesday and a higher case-positivity rate than the national average, both key markers for assessing the virus’ presence in communities. The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, which is also a key marker, has fallen steadily since peaking in July.
Memorial Day in particular likely played a key role in the state’s COVID-19 surge between May and July, according to a report released Tuesday by Amber Schmidtke, an immunology and microbiology expert and former Mercer University School of Medicine professor.
Schmidtke noted the rolling case average spiked in Georgia after Memorial Day from about 605 average cases per day to more than 4,300. Cases especially climbed in areas along the state’s border where the tourism and hospitality industries are important economic drivers, Schmidtke found.
“We need to protect the gains we’ve made in Georgia,” Schmidtke wrote in the report. “This is not the time to lose our focus on measures we know can reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
According to statistics provided by the Lumpkin County School System to The Nugget on Friday just ahead of the holiday, the LCSS reported that nine students (out of 3,771) have currently tested positive.
An additional 65 students are quarantined because they may have been exposed to someone who tested positive. That’s a sizable drop from the 164 reported at the beginning of last week.
A total of four staff members—(out of 538) have tested positive for the virus. Meanwhile, three staff members have been quarantined for possible exposure.