Georgia reports more than 55,000 new cases of COVID-19, nearly 40% positivity rate

ATLANTA — Georgia reported more than 55,000 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday, a day after the state’s website crashed due to an overwhelming amount of data.

The current positivity rate among those being tested for the virus is 40% as the highly-transmissible omicron variant surges.

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Another 35 deaths and 965 hospitalizations were reported Tuesday.

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January 1 marked the highest single-day record for new cases since the pandemic began, with 18,878 new cases reported across the state.

More than 100% of emergency room beds in metro Atlanta are currently full.

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Across the state, 85% of emergency room beds are currently occupied and 84% of intensive care unit beds were in use.

COVID-19 patients make up a little more than 23% of hospitalizations across the state and around 27% in metro Atlanta.

Cases have risen in Georgia in a near-vertical spike since the end of December, with nearly 4,000 people hospitalized with the virus up from less than 1,000 at the end of November.

Several major Atlanta health systems and hospitals, including Grady Health System, Piedmont, Emory and Wellstar were on total emergency room diversion or total diversion Tuesday, according to the Georgia Coordinating Center.

Channel 2′s Tony Thomas was in Gwinnett County, where he spoke to Dr. Audrey Arona with the Georgia Department of Public Health about what she is expecting for the coming days.

“It’s the perfect storm for an increase at this point.” She said, “We are certainly seeing a larger increase in cases than we have in any surge before this. Most likely due to the increased transmissibility of the omicron variant, but we are also seeing the second wave of delta.”

Arona said those surges have caused the positivity rate to surge to 39%, up from just 5% a few weeks ago.

Thomas also talked to people waiting for tests at the former Gwinnett Place Mall. The lines were three hours long at some points.

Tammy Barnes said said she just wanted to know whether she has the virus or not.

“I want to see where I am. I’ve been a little under the weather.” Barnes said “I’m tired, I get tired. I have a low grade temperature, some coughing, I sleep better sitting up. So I just want to make sure.”

Barnes was one of hundreds of people waiting in line for their tests on Tuesday. Video from News Drone 2 showed vehicles wrapped more than a third around the large complex. Barnes said she waited for 1 and ¼ hours and still had several cars in front of her.

In another car Monday, Antoinette Bailey said her family spent their two plus hours talking to each other through masks

Another driver, LaMarr Allen said he was just trying to do what he could to keep people he works with from getting exposed.

“I work at a residential home so it’s very important so it won’t spread to other residents,” Allen said.

Dr. Arona told Thomas officials are seeing sicker people right now and that is increasing the number of people coming to the testing sites. She hopes assistance from the National Guard in the coming days will help. She also says the state plans to increase the number of testing sites in the suburbs.

Arona hopes that omicron will vanish as quickly as it arrived. She insisted that vaccinations are the only way out of the surge, and out of the pandemic.

As for Tammy Barnes, she says she’s a bit tired of this whole pandemic thing, but believes there’s nothing much else that can be done except prayer and trying to stay safe.