Omicron infections climb to unprecedented peaks in Fayette and Georgia

A close-up look at new Covid cases in Fayette as of Dec. 31, 2021. Graph/DPH.
A close-up look at new Covid cases in Fayette as of Dec. 31, 2021. Graph/DPH.

Data overload at Ga. Dept. of Public Health delays weekend numbers — 

Fayette County posted a record number of new omicron cases for the final week of 2021 — 1,172 test-confirmed cases from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

That surging omicron variant also produced a single-day Fayette record of 291 new cases on Dec. 31.

That same surge statewide resulted in a system breakdown at DPH Monday, Jan. 3. Visitors to the Covid reporting site found this message instead of updated weekend numbers: “Alert: The Daily Status Report will not update today, Jan. 3, due to a large amount of data overwhelming the system. We are working to fix the problem and expect to have an update tomorrow at 3 p.m.”

The numbers have been jaw-dropping. The state recorded 80,532 new cases from Dec. 24 to Dec. 31, to bring the pandemic total to more than 1.4 million cases.

The death numbers have not reflected the case surge — yet. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the statewide death toll from Covid causes was 186. In Fayette, the Covid death toll for the week was 4. Hospital admissions for Covid for Fayette residents were 35 for the week.

Admissions to hospital intensive care units also were underwhelming — 76 admissions to ICUs statewide for the entire week.

The striking numbers for Fayette were in the 2-week total cases and 2-week rates of positive tests for infections: 1,729 new cases over a 2-week period and a positive test rate of 29.3%, or almost 3 persons out of ever 10 tested, unprecedented for Fayette.

Next door in Coweta, the 2-week cases and 2-week rate were even higher — 2,214 new cases and a positive test rate of an astonishing 37.6%. Georgia’s statewide rate last week was 29.4%.

While omicron cases surpassed the numbers and rates of infection of previous Covid-19 variants, early studies suggest that the new version of the disease likely is limited to infecting the nose, throat and windpipe of patients, producing a milder illness compared to earlier versions, the New York Times reported Monday.

Even as cases surged, hospitalizations increased only modestly, The Times reported.

One characteristic of omicron that everyone agrees on: It is strikingly more contagious than earlier variants, so that mitigation methods like cloth masks and 6-foot social distancing seem to be less effective at preventing infections, even to people who have been fully vaccinated or who even have had an earlier Covid infection.

Covid cases in Fayette County from pandemic beginning in March 2020 to present. Graph/Ga. DPH.