How are Fayette, Georgia doing with COVID-19 control?
Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.

How are Fayette, Georgia doing with COVID-19 control?

Up until recently, Fayette had controlled the spread of COVID-19 much better than many other counties in our region and the state in general. We had gone down to 4.9 cases per “7-day moving average” on 9-12-20. That was the lowest we had been since mid-June, reflecting a fairly steady decrease in the spread of the virus.

For various reasons, this was not the case over the last few weeks, when we experienced a serious spike. Our current (9-30-20) “7-day moving average” is 13.7, over double what it was earlier in the month, and the trend appears to be upward with Fayette adding 94 new cases (1,839 total) just last week.

The only other counties in the 12 county Region 4 (GA DPH) experiencing a similar rise in cases per 1000 population were Spalding and Lamar. The others generally went down, although a few were level or were up only slightly.

To put things in perspective, Fayette is still doing much better than the state as a whole. Over the last two weeks, cases/100K were 128 for Fayette and 184 for Georgia. Total cases/100k were 1582 for Fayette versus 2920 for the state.

Fayette’s COVID-19 test positivity rate was 4.5% versus 5.9% for Georgia. The national goal is less than 5%, which indicates the virus is beginning to be under control.

In my earlier columns, I indicated that there would be a spike in September caused by school reopenings, as well as the change to cooler weather and the loosening of social distancing restrictions. Unfortunately, I was correct, although hopefully the low Fayette test positivity rate may indicate things will get better in Fayette in the near future.

So, how is Georgia doing as a whole? Georgia is doing better dealing with the pandemic than it was a few months ago, but is still in the middle of a virus crisis.

Thus far (9-3-20), there have been 316,306 cases of COVID-19 in our state, including 6,994 dead and 28,339 hospitalized (dph.georgia.gov/covid-19-daily-status-report). Many of those released have had continuing medical issues due to the lingering effects of the virus, per studies.

Statewide, here are the DPH numbers over time, using the 7-day moving average as the best indicator: 5/1- 665 cases/day moving average; 6/1- 699 cases; 7/1 -2,083 cases; 8/1 – 3,562 cases; 8/28 – 2,293 cases and 9/15-1,316. So, there has been clear improvement versus June. However, 1,316 cases as the 7-day case average today means that we are still nearly twice as high as we were June 1st. Further, per the medical experts, America is getting ready for a second wave of increased cases next month. By any objective measure, that is not good for Georgia.

We are doing too little to control the spread of COVID-19 compared to other states with a scientific, non-political approach. It’s clear that Governor Kemp’s previous Executive Orders have not been as effective as they should have been in containing the spread of the virus. A letter to Kemp by 2,100 physicians and healthcare workers made suggestions (gpb.org/news/2020/07/31/doctors-health-experts-send-second-letter-begging-kemp-mandate-masks).

I believe that our Governor should establish a formal state plan to control the spread of COVID-19, based on guidance issued by the CDC and similar healthcare experts and drawn up by healthcare professionals, not politicians. He should adopt all recommendations made by the White House COVID-19 Task Force, incorporating them into an Executive Order.

Further, the Governor must immediately work with the legislature to increase state funding in order to insure a. increased testing and contact tracing such that testing is readily available in each county; b. development of a realistic plan to obtain test results turnaround within 24-48 hours; c. increased ICU and bed capacity in hospitals throughout the state as needed (shortages currently exist in specific areas) and d. that there is an adequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment for healthcare professionals.

Unfortunately, due to the current divisive state of politics, many have unconscionably sought to downplay the effects of the virus in Georgia. Governor Kemp (much like President Trump) has refused to acknowledge facts on the ground as stated by his own health department.

Unless Georgia wakes up and deals with the issues detailed above, we will continue to have many more cases and many more deaths. Remember Kemp’s action (or more accurately inaction) when the next Governor’s race comes around.

 

Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.