By Joe Johnson
There are now more than 30 cases of coronavirus in Athens-Clarke County and the number of cases in neighboring Oconee County has reached double digits, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
As of noon Friday Athens-Clarke County had 32 confirmed cases of the potentially deadly and highly-infectious disease, up from 29 cases when the DPH previously updated its statewide coronavirus status report Thursday evening. That's a double-digit increase from Wednesday afternoon, when the DPH reported there were 21 confirmed of coronavirus cases in Athens.
Athens-Clarke is one of 10 counties in DPH’s Northeast Health District.
The DPF provides statewide coronavirus updates twice daily, at noon and 7 p.m.
The county in the health district with the next most confirmed cases of the potentially deadly disease, also known as COVID-19, is Oconee, which overnight Thursday jumped from seven to 10 on Friday afternoon, according to the DPH.
Barrow County had the next most cases, increasing from five Thursday evening to six at noon on Friday.
The number of cases in Madison and Jackson counties held firm overnight, with three and two cases, according to the DPH.
Greene and Morgan counties cases of coronavirus remained unchanged from Thursday evening, with each having one case, according to the DPH.
Elbert, Walton and Oglethorpe continued to have no confirmed cases of coronavirus, the DPH said.
Effective noon Thursday, Barrow became the second county in the health district to declare a local state of emergency, enacting certain restrictions on residents and businesses in an attempt to reduce person-to-person contacts that can spread the disease. The restrictions included the closing of all bars and limits gatherings of more than 10 people in public areas and private establishments if such gatherings require people to stand or be seated within six feet of each other.
The measure is similar to that which was taken last week by Athens-Clarke County commissioners. They unanimously approved an ordinance mandating the closure of all non-essential businesses and banned gatherings of more than 10 people. Athens restaurants are allowed to remain open, but only if they offer delivery or pick-up services. The ordinance is designed to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the coronavirus by minimizing possible contacts with infected people.
Included in the 29 confirmed Athens-Clarke cases was that of a 67-year-old Athens man who had pre-existing medical problems and died Tuesday after testing positive for COVID-19, according to the DPH. Also as of noon Friday, the DPH reported there were 2,001 confirmed cases of the coronavirus statewide, up from 1,643 cases Thursday evening. In that same timeframe, the number of coronavirus-related deaths statewide rose from 56 deaths to 64 and virus-related hospitalizations increased from 509 to 566, according to the DPH. 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, according to the DPH. 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.