While new COVID-19 cases in Bulloch County have remained in a stable range of about 10 per day since the end of September, new coronavirus cases in Georgia set a daily record Saturday.
Public Safety/Emergency Management Agency Director Ted Wynn said Bulloch recorded seven new cases on Saturday and, for the first time since June 4, no new cases were reported on Sunday.
In his report Sunday, Wynn said the county has now recorded 3,252 total COVID cases, which have resulted in 35 confirmed deaths and 151 local residents being hospitalized since the pandemic began in March.
Also, the Georgia Department of Health is reporting an additional 17 deaths probably were caused by COVID. According to the Georgia DPH, the 17 non-confirmed deaths represent Bulloch citizens who received a positive Antigen/rapid test for COVID-19, developed COVID- 19 symptoms and subsequently died.
On Saturday, the Georgia Health News reported that antigen tests combined with those from PCR screenings — something that most states do — meant Saturday’s increase of COVID infections in Georgia topped 6,300 – a single-day record in the state.
Georgia currently does not count results of the two kinds of tests together. But the total has experts alarmed.
“It’s a big day,’’ said Amber Schmidtke, a microbiologist who tracks Georgia COVID cases in the Daily Digest. Georgia is approaching its previous peak in its 7-day infection rate, she added.
The previous record for daily infections reported was Nov. 3, when 6,003 cases were reported, Schmidtke said. Georgia also recorded 126 new COVID hospitalizations in the Saturday totals, along with 38 confirmed deaths.
The surge of new infections is rocking the nation. The number of U.S. coronavirus cases surpassed 12 million Saturday — an increase of more than 1 million cases in less than a week. More than 255,000 Americans have died.
Almost every state has reported big increases in cases, and nationwide numbers have been climbing much faster than ever before — with the country reporting a staggering 2.8 million infections since the beginning of the month, CNN reported.
On Friday, more than 195,500 new infections were reported — the country’s highest for a single day. The United States on Friday also recorded its highest number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals on a given day, at more than 82,100.
According to statistics from the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, as of Sunday afternoon, 256,347 Americans had died from coronavirus, an increase 9,589 deaths in the past week. Also, Johns Hopkins reported the U.S. has 12,163,851 confirmed cases, an increase of 1,049,700 in the past week.
Georgia reported 2,026 cases on Sunday and 16,481 new cases in the past week, bringing the state’s total number of confirmed cases up to 404,411. Georgia reported 3 deaths on Sunday, raising the death toll to 8,627.
Anxious about the holidays
In Georgia, the total of new positive readings from rapid antigen tests reported Saturday, 3,270, exceeded those from PCR tests, 3,053.
The state does not count the two together because Public Health officials do not consider positive results from rapid tests as ‘‘confirmed.’’ The state’s COVID-19 report still lists people who test positive for the coronavirus through PCR tests separately from people who test positive through rapid antigen tests.
Other Southeastern states add rapid test positives into their cumulative totals. And the CDC “is now including antigen cases in Georgia’s total,’’ Schmidtke said.
Rapid tests are not considered as accurate as PCR tests. But because they are faster and less expensive than PCR tests, antigen tests may be more practical to use for large numbers of people, experts say. They’re frequently used at universities, long-term care facilities and medical offices.
There’s an increased chance of a false negative result with an antigen test, meaning it’s possible to be infected with the virus even though the test indicates you are not. But a positive result on an antigen test — indicating that you are infected — is considered accurate when instructions are carefully followed,
Experts fear COVID cases may continue to surge, with the Thanksgiving holidays less than a week away and colder weather coming.
“There is no question in my mind that we are seeing the same surge that is occurring in the rest of the country, even though we are also seeing increased testing, likely in preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday,’’ said Dr. Harry Heiman, a public health expert at Georgia State University.
Saturday’s numbers reflect the problem of Georgia not counting the positive antigen tests with the overall infection count, he added.
“So people continue to hold the false belief that it’s not so bad in Georgia, despite the fact that numbers are surging and 16 hospitals, including major medical centers in Atlanta and across the state, are on diversion–meaning no medical beds or critical care beds available for new patients,’’ Heiman said.
“We are in a full crisis, yet our state leadership is once again failing to act,’’ he said. “Now is the time for a statewide mask mandate, now is the time to close bars and indoor dining, and now is past time to stop allowing indoor mask-less political rallies.’’
Gov. Brian Kemp has encouraged the wearing of masks in Georgia, but has not required it.
USA Today reported this week that more than 30 states – plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico – now require everyone within their borders to wear face coverings in public, according to a list maintained by AARP.