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State data doesn't tell whole story of COVID surge in Georgia

Doctors say laxer lifestyles and a lack of reporting at-home test results are contributing to an incomplete picture of a spike in COVID cases

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Georgia is going through a COVID surge, mirroring what other parts of the country are seeing. Doctors said the current spike is nowhere near as intense as this past winter's Omicron surge or the Delta wave from last summer.

Dr. Jesse Couk, an infectious disease doctor with Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, said cases in Georgia have risen since late April. The Georgia Department of Public Health tracked three-thousand new cases a day in its most recent count. Hospitalizations are also increasing, but the increase in patients is still reasonably low compared to previous spikes.

However, Couk said the rising new case numbers leave out many positive at-home test results and people who might be infected but did not take a COVID-19 test. 

"We are no longer staying at home, wearing masks consistently," Couk said. "Many of us have started living our lives again and part of that is getting infections. Cases have increased slightly in the hospital, but nothing remotely like past surges. It’s very different in terms of hospitalizations compared to surges we’ve seen in the past.”

Doug Robinson co-owns Eagle Eye Bookshop in Decatur. He said he's only had one worker out with COVID-19 in the last few weeks but said he knows more people who are getting infected with the coronavirus.  

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"We don’t take it for granted either, because the business has been holding up for us," Robinson said. "We may have to reduce our hours somewhat if it gets too bad, but that’s the most drastic thing I think we’d have to do.”

Robinson said business is surpassing pre-pandemic levels, but he's staying on guard. Other workplaces like restaurants and offices could be more vulnerable, he said, because they rely on staff more to operate and serve others. 

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“During all of this COVID thing, we feel like we’ve been kind of a survivor,” Robinson said. "My heart goes out to them, because I know they’re short-staffed and I know they’d like to keep their level of customer service up, but as you’ve probably noticed, it takes longer to get served.”

Dr. Couk encouraged people to get vaccinated and boosted to guard against severe disease and death before they get the coronavirus. But he also said an accessible reporting system at the state or national level could better account for at-home testing when tracking COVID-19 cases.

"The virus didn’t change so much as we changed. Most of us have been vaccinated, gotten COVID or both," Couk said. "If you haven’t had COVID and you’re not vaccinated, you need to get vaccinated now. You need to be prepared. Don’t assume you’re going to get lucky. Have a plan for what to do if you start having symptoms that might be COVID.”

For more information on COVID-19, testing and vaccines, click here.

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