Georgia’s current COVID-19 situation only looks good when compared to other states where coronavirus infections are climbing even more steeply.

Georgia passed 9,000 confirmed and probable deaths with new deaths reported Tuesday, with the average number of deaths recorded rising in recent weeks. The number of people hospitalized with the respiratory illness has risen more than 40% in the last five weeks.

The state ranks 47th among the states for new cases per capita in the last 14 days. But the numbers of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths are all climbing significantly in Georgia. That’s especially true once positive results from rapid antigen tests are included in the state’s case totals, as advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are at a very difficult point in the pandemic right now in our country,” Emory University’s Dr. Carlos Rio, executive executive associate dean of the university’s School of Medicine, said in a briefing Friday.

The state now has 430,000 cases when those confirmed through molecular tests and those suspected by antigen tests are combined.

The seven-day rolling average of confirmed and suspected cases has risen nearly 9% in the last week to nearly 2,700 a day, That’s about the same rate of increase as the week before. One in every 765 Georgians tested positive in the past week, according to data kept by The Associated Press.

Georgia only began reporting daily antigen tests about two weeks ago, but the rolling average of confirmed cases has risen nearly 90% since the most recent low on Oct. 8.

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.

The share of positive tests, another indicator that the virus is spreading widely, has also been trending up, although it dipped in the last few days.

Georgia continues to report that nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are the top sites for outbreaks, followed by schools, workplaces, correctional facilities and factories. The state lists 50 counties with high transmission, including a belt along the western edge of the state running north from LaGrange and another belt along the South Carolina line.

Gov Brian Kemp has extended his executive orders containing pandemic restrictions, but there are continuing questions whether some provisions, such as bans on gatherings of more than 50 people who aren’t socially distanced, are being enforced. Kemp has said little about the virus in recent days, having last given a public briefing on the virus on Oct. 7.

“We continue to watch the numbers with Dr. Toomey and her team,” Kemp spokesperson Cody Hall said Tuesday, referring to Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey.

Del Rio is calling for a nationwide mask mandate and reduced capacity or closure at places that people congregate such as bars, restaurants, religious congregations, gyms and hotels.

“We also have what I call a leadership vacuum,” Del Rio said. “There is nobody at any high level really talking about this providing guidance, saying what to do.”

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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