Georgia infections show sharper rise if rapid tests included

ATLANTA (AP) — COVID-19 infections are rising more rapidly in Georgia, in line with a national trend of increasing cases.

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 18% higher in the week that ended Friday compared to the week before, according to a report issued Monday by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The state recorded 10,086 genetic positives and 2,564 antigen positives last week, tipping Georgia back above 100 weekly cases per 100,000 people, one measure of rapid spread.


Georgia still remains far off its July peaks, when it was averaging 3,700 cases per day, worst in the nation at the time. Because the respiratory illness is now spreading so rapidly in other regions, Georgia ranks only 34th 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.

The share of positive genetic tests has risen above 7% statewide in Georgia from a low of 5.5% as late as Oct. 15, suggesting more rapid spread in communities. 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.

Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey said earlier this month that the state was planning to include positive rapid antigen tests in its daily report, but has not yet done so. Many other states count those tests no differently than genetic tests, but Georgia officials said they’re worried about the higher rate of false results on the antigen tests.

Despite those concerns, the state publishes antigen numbers in once-weekly county-level reports that are issued on Mondays.

But even just counting genetic tests, the rise in cases in Georgia is increasingly clear. The state’s seven-day daily average of positive tests is up 30% since hitting a low on Oct. 8, according to AP numbers. The seven-day average of hospitalizations is up 7% since hitting a low on Oct. 12.

Deaths, which usually lag behind hospitalizations, have mounted more slowly in recent days. Georgia has recorded 7,827 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and more than 326,000 cases confirmed through genetic tests. 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 numbers are rising as millions of Georgians cast their votes for president and federal and state offices. Democrats have heavily criticized President Donald Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp, both Republicans, for their actions during the pandemic. Kemp has said he’s striking the right balance between health and making sure restrictions don’t choke off economic growth.

Public health officials count 39 high transmission counties, with a group in northwest Georgia that includes the Carrollton, Cartersville, Rome and Dalton areas, parts of rural northeast Georgia north of Athens, and a belt running east

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While all gyms are included in COVID-19 shutdowns, not all fitness facilities are the same

Karume Mrusha works out at Hone Fitness in Toronto on July 31, 2020.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

It’s a problem I’m glad someone else is responsible for solving – how exactly do you protect people from a mysterious and deadly airborne virus without ruining the economy and stomping all over civil liberties? This is the COVID-19 conundrum in a nutshell.

When the Ontario government announced renewed lockdown restrictions for Toronto, Ottawa and Peel regions at the beginning of October, gyms were placed front and centre in the firing line. All indoor fitness facilities – along with casinos, cinemas, performing-arts venues and indoor dining establishments – were ordered closed by the Premier’s office until at least early November, a desperate attempt by officials to quell the rising case numbers in the province after a quiet and hopeful summer.

Not five minutes after this announcement was made, my Instagram feed began to look like something like a libertarian activist forum. Most of the grumbling came from gym owners who were upset about the prospect of losing another month’s business. Then came the armchair virologists whose amateur opinions amount to a “survival of the fittest” argument.

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My scope of practice as a personal trainer excludes me from making any statements on COVID-19 outside of what medical experts are already saying, but I do want to address, from an insider’s perspective, the issue of gyms being shuttered.

Why gyms should be included in the lockdown

By now you’ve likely heard about the Hamilton-based spin studio that’s at the centre of a massive COVID-19 outbreak. Eighty cases have so far been linked to SpinCo, though it’s feared this number could easily reach 100. It’s believed that “patient zero” was asymptomatic, a common and insidious feature of COVID-19 infections.

This case presents an obvious and important question: How can businesses in which groups of people gather together under one roof operate safely when basic screening measures are essentially useless?

The answer is just as obvious. They can’t. According to SpinCo staff, class capacity was cut by 50 per cent, from 43 riders to 21, and each bike was buffered by a six-foot radius. The problem is the very nature of the activity members are paying to participate in. Picture a spin class in action (this thought experiment works just as well if you substitute a kettlebell class, kickboxing or any HIIT-style class). The exertion level is high. Lots of heavy breathing. Lots of spit and sweat, lots of speaking moistly. Distancing protocols mean nothing in these environments.

It’s a tough spot for fitness businesses to be in, and my heart goes out to all gym owners struggling to stay afloat. Take your classes outside while you still can, apply for federal relief if you qualify, and ride out the storm with the rest of the world.

#notallgyms

There’s a common misconception among people who don’t exercise that all exercise is the same, that a gym is a gym is a gym. This is like

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