By Joe Johnson
The number of confirmed cases of the novel 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) in Georgia on Thursday surpassed 5,000 with more than 1,000 infected patients hospitalized, according to the Georgia Department of Health’s daily afternoon update on Wednesday.
Also on Thursday, the DPH reported that an 83-year-old man in Oglethorpe County died from the virus, bringing the number of counties in the Athens metro area to record fatalities to four.
As of noon Wednesday, there were 4,638 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide, and the number increased to 5,348 as of noon Thursday, according to the DPH.
In that same timeframe, the number of deaths from the virus increased by 24, from 139 to 163, and hospitalizations jumped from 952 Wednesday afternoon to 1,056 as of noon Thursday.
The DPH updates its coronavirus status report twice daily, at noon and 7 p.m. The novel 2019 coronavirus causes the deadly COVID-19 disease. The reports tracks the spread of the deadly disease that has shut down schools and businesses and has people sheltering in place at their homes nationwide.
“Today’s significant increase in cases is in part due to additional laboratories reporting to DPH, and also improvements in electronic reporting from other laboratories,” the DPH said. “Patient information is often incomplete and DPH works to complete the records, so data will change over time.”
The number of confirmed cases of the highly-infectious virus remained relatively steady overnight in the DPH’s Northeast Health District that includes Athens-Clarke, Oconee, Jackson, Madison, Barrow, Oglethorpe, Greene, Morgan, Elbert and Walton Counties.
From noon Wednesday to noon Thursday, Athens-Clarke added three more confirmed cases, going from 51 to 54, and remained steady with five deaths.
Barrow County has the next most cases, and it remained steady over the last 24-hour period with 20 cases and two deaths, the DPH said.
The county in the health district with the next most confirmed cases of the deadly disease is Oconee, which increased from 17 cases Wednesday afternoon to 18 on Thursday, according to the DPH.
Coronavirus cases in Jackson County increased from nine Tuesday evening to 11 Thursday afternoon, and Greene County held steady with eight confirmed cases of the virus, the DPH said.
Virus statistics in Madison increased, from three to four and the number of deaths remained the same, at one, according to the DPH.
Morgan County remained steady with two confirmed COVID-19 cases and Walton increased from 12 cases Wednesday afternoon to 14 on Thursday.
Elbert had tet to record any deaths as of the DPH's Thursday afternoon update.
Older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart and lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 and should always consult their healthcare provider if they are sick.
The DPH identified the Athens residents who died as a 60-year-old man, a 79-year-old man and a pair of 78-year-old women, all of whom had underlying medical conditions, and an 89-year-old woman who had no underlying conditions.
The patients in Barrow County who died were a 66-year-old man and a 91-year-old woman, both of whom had underlying medical condition, the DPH said, and the Madison County fatality was a 71-year-old man with pre-existing health conditions.
It was unknown if the 83-year-old man from Oglethorpe County who died had any underlying medical conditions, according to the DPH.
Long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and congregate living settings for older people must strictly follow COVID-19 prevention measures to stop rapid spread of the virus, according to the DPH.
The DPH stressed that all Georgians play a critical role in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 by following the simple rules of social distancing by putting at least 6 feet between yourself and other people; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and staying at home if you are feeling sick.
To view DPH coronavirus updates visit https://dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report