by Robin Kemp

More Georgians are infected with COVID-19 than ever before since the pandemic broke out last year, according to figures from the Georgia Department of Public Health.

12,584 people in Clayton County have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (as of December 28) since the pandemic began. Between December 12 and Christmas Day, 1,548 Clayton County residents had tested positive for the disease. 223 Clayton County residents have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began–among them, a 7-year-old African-American girl.

As of December 31, 2020, at least 4,578 people in Georgia were hospitalized with COVID-19. The seven-day rolling average was 4,262.

NPR reported January 1 that 20 million people nationwide have tested positive for COVID-19.

More and more people on ventilators

As of noon on January 1, 2021, 592 people are on ventilators in Region D, which includes Clayton County and most of metro Atlanta. That’s 46.4 percent of the area’s available ventilators–meaning that a post-holiday spike in cases could wipe out any remaining ventilators. On December 16, 334 people were on ventilators. Overnight, that jumped to 545 people on December 17–a new high likely made worse by Thanksgiving visits. The number dipped slightly, then began rising again, hitting a record high as of press time:

Ventilator use by date in Region D. The first dot represents April 8, 2020, when 336 people were on ventilators. The lowest dot was November 6, 2020, when 261 people were on ventilators. A spike on December 17, 2020 shows 545 people on ventilators. The last dot represents today, January 1, 2021, and the 592 people in metro Atlanta–including Clayton County and the Southern Crescent–who are depending on ventilators to keep breathing.

Dangerous shortage of beds

On December 23, Gov. Brian Kemp said he would reopen the field hospital set up in the Georgia World Congress Center. Here’s the situation that state health officials are trying to get ahead of, as of press time:

  • 4,246 people are in hospital beds in Region D. That’s 86.8 percent of the total beds available.
  • Of those, 1,024 ICU beds are in use, which represents 82.8 percent of the area’s total ICU beds.
  • 691 patients are in emergency room beds, which means 65.7 percent of Region D’s ER beds are full.

ICUs filling up

Clayton County is in Region D, where 23.4 percent of hospital patients–nearly one in four–have COVID-19. Neighboring counties in Region F, which includes

Nursing, long-term care homes update

Here’s the final dataset for nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Clayton County for 2020. You can search the table or sort it by clicking on the category above each column. Can’t see all the columns? Use your finger on your mobile device to scroll left or right on the chart:

Clayton’s children at risk

The latest report from GDPH indicates a “high” rate of COVID-19 among Clayton County’s children. 321 kids and young adults have tested positive for the virus in the past two weeks. 286 of them had full-blown cases of COVID-19.

  • As of December 30, 2020, there have been 242 children ages 0 to 4 years with COVID-19.
  • Among children and teenagers ages 5-17, a total of 1,095 kids have caught COVID-19 to date.
  • Young adults ages 18 to 22 account for 1,021 COVID-19 cases as of December 30.
286 infants, children, teens, and young adults in Clayton County
have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past two weeks, according to GDPH.

Despite pleas from health officials not to indulge in family gatherings, travel, or holiday events, many people have ignored those warnings. The next two weeks could see another sharp increase in COVID-19 cases as people who were exposed over Christmas and New Year’s begin to show symptoms.

Understanding the facts

  • A negative COVID-19 test is not a “get out of jail free” card. It only shows whether or not you had enough of the virus inside of you at the time you were tested to be detected in a lab.
  • You can test negative and still be carrying (and spreading) COVID-19 to everyone around you for up to two weeks before you start feeling sick.
  • Wearing a mask under your nose does NOT stop you from spreading or catching COVID-19. Pull your mask up over your nose so that it covers both your nose and mouth. It’s less “uncomfortable” than being intubated.
  • Treat your mask like underwear. Get at least two and wash them with soap and water between uses.
  • Consider wearing more than one mask. Some “masks” are designed as decorative covers for medical-grade masks. If you can see daylight through your mask, it’s less effective than one with a tighter weave.
  • Remember to keep your distance, sanitize high-touch items like cellphones and doorknobs, wash your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds, and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you’re out and about. A mask is just one tool to help cut down on the virus’ spread. Do all the things!
  • Just because you share a home with others does not mean you can all go maskless or ignore social distancing. The more people sharing an enclosed space, especially in winter, means a greater chance of COVID-19 or other illnesses spreading.
  • Occasionally open a window or turn on your car’s vent to circulate fresh air.
  • Some people are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine because of historic abuses like the Tuskeegee syphilis study. In that study, white Public Health Service employees did not inform Black men who had syphilis that they had the disease. The patients were either left untreated or given ineffective medicines, which are extreme ethical violations. Meanwhile, white men were told about their disease and treated effectively with penicillin. Today, many healthcare professionals and hospital workers, including African-American doctors and nurses, are letting TV news crews film them getting COVID-19 vaccinations. They say they’re doing it to show the public that the vaccine is safe. Not everyone will choose to be or is able to get vaccinated.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say experts don’t yet know how many people need to be vaccinated to get COVID-19 under control. The term “herd immunity” means that enough people in a population are protected, either through vaccination or previous infection, to stop the virus from spreading. However, that percentage “varies by disease,” according to the CDC. Until enough people are immune to COVID-19, all other measures like wearing masks and social distancing will help slow the spread of the virus from one person to others around them.

The Clayton County Health District offers these recommendations for dealing with COVID-19:

  • Stay home – If you are experiencing symptoms, please continue to follow the CDC guidelines of 10-14 days of self-isolation.
  • Practice social distancing – keep at least 6 feet between yourself and other people.
  • Wash your hands – use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) if soap and water aren’t readily available.
  • Wear a mask – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially where social distancing is difficult to maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.), and especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Get answers to your. COVID-19 questions directly from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html

Get your free COVID-19 test at the Clayton County Health District. Make your reservation online at covid19.dph.ga.gov or call 678-479-2223.

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