A consultant working with the Fulton County government said he’s worried about the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the nation, state and county.
“We are starting to see some pretty alarming trends in (Fulton) hospitalizations. Since Sept. 25, we have increased from a plateau of 160 to just under 300, and we just went over 300 yesterday,” said Doug Schuster of Emergency Management Services International, an emergency management firm working with the county.
Schuster and others provided a COVID-19 relief update at the Fulton Board of Commissioners’ Nov. 17 recess meeting, which was held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website, the 14-day average of the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Fulton per 100,000 residents has jumped from 83 on Oct. 1 to 255 on Nov. 18.
Matt Kallmyer, director of the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency, said the county expects to hit the 1 million testing mark Dec. 2, though that does not mean all 1 million of the county’s residents have been tested, a goal of board Chair Robb Pitts, since some residents are getting tested multiple times.
“We are seeing an increase in people taking advantage of our mobile and regular testing sites,” Kallmyer said. At the previous two meetings he and others had said there was a decline in residents getting tested.
Dr. Lynn Paxton, Fulton’s district health director, said she’s been pleased to hear reports of success regarding the COVID-19 vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna. Once a vaccine is made available to the county it will distribute them to front-line healthcare workers first
“In Georgia we’ll get 30,000 doses for every 1 million people. It will come starting in mid-December. By mid- to end of December, Georgia will get 900,000 doses to vaccinate 450,000 people,” Paxton said, adding each vaccine requires two doses. “… There will probably be manufactured about 30 million doses per month (nationally), so then we’ll be able to roll out the vaccine to more of the general populous.
“Mid-2021 is when it could be completely implemented. But we can’t take our foot off the gas on wearing masks, social distancing and washing our hands because we won’t get the vaccine implemented completely until mid-2021.”
Paxton also said she’s concerned about the rise in coronavirus cases in Fulton.
“The rise in cases has necessitated an adjustment based on rates,” she said. “Our positivity rate has gone above the 5% threshold.”
Paxton also said with the Georgia Supreme Court allowing each county court system to resume grand jury proceedings, it’s been a positive in that Fulton had 23 indictments since Nov. 13. But the negative is it’s also caused a spike in cases among court employees in the county.
“(Regarding) employee positives since the last (board) meeting, the last two weeks have seen the largest spike in positive cases,” she said. “We’ve had 29 since the last meeting; because of the number of positives experienced in the Superior Court, it has brought the number of employees in Superior Court above what was (in) emergency services and 911 (departments).”
Paxton added the total number of employees that have tested positive this year is 165. The county is considering reopening its libraries, which currently have only curbside/drive-thru service, but it may delay that move because of the recent rise in COVID cases.
She also said the county may move some employees that are underutilized in other departments to the courts to help temporarily fill positions that opened when some workers contracted the virus.
“I think we need to remain cautious,” District 4 Commissioner Natalie Hall said, who added her son got COVID-19 from working in the Fulton court system. “So, I was really glad to find out you’re going to assist them. That’s why months ago, I asked if we were communicating if we were using the same processes.
“In the courts (employees) were literally going to get tested and waiting for their results while back at work. Then, when they tested positive, they went home, and the rest of the employees had to be tested to see if they contracted it.”