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The seven-day moving average for coronavirus cases in Georgia is down by more than 53% since the state's peak on July 24 and new cases are staying flat in most parts of the state, but the Georgia Department of Public Health has identified one county in Northwest Georgia where transmission rates are higher than most.

Walker County has seen 193 new positive COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, which represents nearly 13% of the county's total cases recorded since April 1.

Walker County was listed along with more than 30 other counties in the state that had indicators of high transmission. The health department defines high transmission as having more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 people in a county over the previous 14 days. Floyd County also fell under this category.

Logan Bass, spokesperson for Georgia's Northwest Health District, said there's nothing "especially unusual" about the community spread in Walker County, even though the state's health department has flagged it.

"It's high, but it's high in many Georgia counties," Bass said. "We're still seeing widespread community transmission of the virus throughout Northwest Georgia. People need to wear masks and, most important, avoid crowds, especially indoors."

Bass also encouraged people to get a flu shot if possible.

"They aren't perfect, but they do provide some reduction of the risk of getting flu," he said. "Anything we can do to help keep people with flu from taking up hospital space this flu season will be beneficial."

Georgia's statewide positive rate for testing has increased from 7.7% on Sept. 14 to 10.3% on Sept. 21. However, that number is somewhat inflated. The health department is currently offloading several positive and negative tests in the past week that were put into the system all at once.

"During the on-boarding process, there may be days where the number of daily positive tests and positive rates will be artificially inflated," the department said in news release. "This is due to a backlog of tests now being reported through Electronic Laboratory Reporting all at once, the majority of results previously reported by the provider or laboratory through other means."

Hospitalizations are down across the state — a drop from 1,533 on Sept. 14 to 1,415 on Sept. 21. Hospitalizations have decreased 55.7% since a daily high of 3,200 reported July 30.

However, emergency room visits for COVID-19 and flu-like symptoms have remained flat between Sept. 5 and 18. There have been slight upticks in those visits in Walker, Whitfield and Murray counties, according to the state health department.

Statewide, COVID-19 cases for people ages 18 to 22 skyrocketed at the end of August. Nancy Nydam, spokesperson for the department of health, said many of the outbreaks have been among school sports teams at both the high school and college level.

"The upticks coincide with schools, colleges and universities reopening between mid-August and mid-September," Nydam said in a statement to the Times Free Press.

Before schools reopened, the highest point for people between 18 and 22 years old was reported in mid-July with about 2,700 people. For the week starting Aug. 31, that number rose to nearly 4,000.

Walker County Schools has dealt with its fair share of coronavirus cases and, in turn, has had to quarantine close to 500 people, both staff and students.

As of Friday afternoon, eight students and five faculty members currently have COVID-19. Because of those cases and previous ones, 84 students and five staff members are quarantined at home.

The last cumulative report the school district released showed 41 people tested positive between Aug. 13 and Sept. 3 and 486 people had to be quarantined. The next report will be released Friday and show cumulative cases between Sept. 4 and Oct. 1.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

 

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