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Increase in new virus infections levels off in Georgia
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A "COVID +" sign hangs on the door of a patient room in Northeast Georgia Medical Center's mobile COVID-19 unit on Oct. 15, 2020. - photo by Thomas Hartwell

 ATLANTA — The rise in coronavirus infections has slowed in Georgia, although transmission of the respiratory illness remains widespread in the state. 

Georgia is averaging about 1,600 new COVID-19 cases per day confirmed through genetic tests, according to a seven-day rolling average, plus about 500 per day confirmed through less accurate antigen tests. In Hall County, the seven-day rolling average provided by the Department of Public Health was 42.9 on Nov. 9, down from a recent high of 105 on Sept. 21. 

Those numbers were higher on Monday than they were a week earlier in Georgia and Hall County but had come down in recent days from higher peaks.  

It's unclear whether the change represents an enduring trend or just a pause in the steady rise in cases that Georgia has seen since early October, with cases confirmed through genetic tests having risen nearly 40%. Those tests show nearly 375,000 confirmed infections. Hall County does not appear to have experienced a steady rise in October. 

Georgia started releasing daily antigen numbers last week after releasing once-a-week totals for two previous weeks. Officials had been promising to add the number for weeks, after national experts said the best accounting for the disease would include those tests results as well. 

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 continues to creep up, having averaged nearly 1,500 on days over the past week, up 17% from October lows. As yet, hospitalization increases are tracking below increased case rates. The number of deaths Georgia is recording has rebounded off of recent lows to around 30 a day. The state had confirmed 8,223 total deaths as of Monday, as well as 454 probable deaths. 

At the Northeast Georgia Health System, which serves Hall County and surrounding areas, numbers have trended up in recent days, with 116 being treated systemwide Tuesday, including 78 at the Gainesville location. That’s up from 77 systemwide and 51 in Gainesville a week ago but below highs in the 170s in early August. 

Deaths typically come only after new cases are detected and people are hospitalized. While most people who contract the coronavirus recover after suffering only mild to moderate symptoms, it can be deadly for older patients and those with other health problems. 

Cody Hall, a spokesman for Gov. Brian Kemp, said the Republican would hold a conference call with metro Atlanta-area hospital leaders on Tuesday "to ensure our successful public/private partnership continues as we head into the winter months." Hall said Georgia is working on its vaccine distribution plan and has stockpiled a 60-day supply of masks and other protective equipment. 

Kemp has said little about COVID-19 in the last month and didn't answer questions asked by The Associated Press about what he would like to see from the federal government as Democrat President-elect Joe Biden announced his own coronavirus task force on Monday. 

The state's report on Monday listed 50 high-transmission counties, where the positivity rate has been above 10% in the last two weeks and the number of new cases was above 100 per 100,000 residents during that time. They include 15 counties in west and northwest Georgia, including those that are home to Carrollton, Rome and Dalton. There's another belt of 15 counties along the South Carolina line north of Augusta and east of Athens. There's also a cluster in the south Atlanta suburbs of Clayton, Henry and Spalding counties. 

Times staff contributed.

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