Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks to reporters about Georgia's COVID-19 outbreak, Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020, at the state Capitol in Atlanta. Kemp says that Georgia is making progress in reducing coronavirus infections, but is urging people to get a flu shot in addition to practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands. (Riley Bunch/The Daily Times via AP)
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ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia is nearing 8,000 deaths from COVID-19 as infections from the novel coronavirus continue to rise.

The broadest measure of COVID-19 cases, which includes rapid antigen tests as well as the more precise genetic tests, shows the number of confirmed and probable cases was 8.5% higher in the week that ended Friday compared with the week before, according to a report issued Monday by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

In one good sign, though, the number of cases and hospitalizations rose more slowly last week than the week before.

The 7-day rolling average of new cases detected through only genetic tests in Georgia was nearly 1,600 on Monday, 38% higher than at the recent low on Oct. 8. More than 1,400 confirmed COVID-19 patients were hospitalized Monday, up 12% from the recent low in October.

Nearly 363,000 people in Georgia have been confirmed to have the illness as of Monday, and 7,999 confirmed deaths have been recorded. The average number of deaths recorded has been falling in recent weeks, but 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.

Gov. Brian Kemp and his wife are among those in quarantine after being exposed to the virus. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state issued guidance saying those who have tested positive for the virus. The agencies say anyone who is sick or in quarantine should inform poll workers when they arrive at a polling place. Such people are supposed to wear a mask, stay 6 feet (2 meters) from others and clean hands before and after voting.

The share of positive tests rose to 7.3% on Monday in Georgia. Experts say that if more than 5% of tests are coming back positive, it suggests that too few tests are being done and many infections may be going undetected. The increasing positivity rate could also be affected by a decline in recent days in genetic tests for the virus, considered the most accurate.

State Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said Oct. 7 that the state was planning to include positive rapid antigen tests in its daily report, but Georgia has not yet done so.

The state's report on Monday listed 52 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. High transmission counties include those that are home to Athens, Carrollton, Dalton, Rome, Valdosta and Warner Robins, as well as the south suburban Atlanta counties of Clayton and Henry.

New cases and hospitalizations in Georgia remain at less than half their July peaks, when the state was ranked worst in the nation. Because the respiratory illness is now spreading so rapidly in other regions, Georgia ranks only 40th among the states, according to numbers tracked by The Associated Press. Many more cases, per capita, are being recorded in some Midwestern and Western states.


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