By Joe Johnson
In the span of seven hours on Wednesday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Athens-Clarke County rose from 19 to 21, according to the Georgia Department of Health.
When the DPH released its update at noon there were 19 confirmed cases of the highly-infectious disease, but that number ticked up to 21 at 7 p.m.
The DPF provides updates twice daily, at noon and 7 p.m.
In that same Wednesday timeframe, the number of confirmed cases of the virus in Oconee County rose from five to six, and the number of cases in Madison County increased from one to two, according to the DPH.
Jackson and Barrow County held steady at one and two confirmed cases of the disease, respectively, and Morgan County logged its first case, the DPH said.
Included in the 16 confirmed Athens-Clarke cases was that of a man who, the DPH reported, was the first in the county to have died from the disease, also known as COVID-19.
“The individual, a 67-year-old male, died in an Athens hospital and was a resident. In addition to testing positive for COVID-19, he had existing medical conditions,” the DPH’s Northeast Health District reported.
The health district comprises Athens-Clarke, Jackson, Madison, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Elbert, Walton, Greene, Morgan and Barrow counties.
District spokesperson Sarah Peck said the increases were expected, with even more confirmed cases to come as test results are returned and more test kits are made available.
There are now two drive-through testing areas in Athens -- one at Piedmont Athens Medical Center and an undisclosed DPH site to which only referrals are sent, she said.
Also as of Tuesday evening, the DPH reported there were 1,387 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, with 38 deaths and 361 people hospitalized with the disease. Those numbers are up from the 1,247 statewide confirmed cases, 40 deaths and 394 hospitalizations reported by the DPH in its noon 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. 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.
The DPH stressed that all Georgians play a critical role in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 by adhering to the following guidance:
Practice social distancing by putting at least 6 feet between yourself and other people.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home if you are sick.
Athens-Clarke County last week ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses and banned gatherings of more than 10 people. The measure is designed to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the deadly virus by minimizing possible contacts with infected people.
No such measures had been taken by adjoining counties as of Wednesday afternoon.