I-TEAM: Rising COVID-19 cases in GA, SC have many asking if second wave is here

Published: Jun. 8, 2020 at 2:37 PM EDT
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Monday, June 8, 2020

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what has led to a spike in COVID-19 cases in South Carolina and Georgia but what we know the states have increased cases and relaxed stay-at-home orders.

Both are factors health officials say can lead to an increase in new cases.

Remember the scenes of packed beached on Memorial Day along the Carolina coast after weeks of staying indoors? Health officials warned crowds to continue social distancing efforts over the holiday.

A rolling heat map shows the growing number of new cases over the last two weeks. The biggest growth is in the state’s largest cities, but coastal communities are seeing an increase.

We found the number of total COVID-19 tests coming back positive are also increasing in South Carolina -- about 9% of the more than 240,000 South Carolinians.

Georgia became the first state to lift shelter-in-place orders five weeks ago.

We spoke with Dr. Phil Coule with Augusta University Health about the increase in new cases last week.

“Well, we are seeing a little bit of a second spike of COVID-19 occurring in the state it would appear. There is certainly an uptick in the data that would suggest that," Coule said.

We first told you Georgia's Hancock County ranked sixth in the state for most deaths per capita a month ago.

Most of the deaths have occurred in two of the county’s nursing homes. Nursing home deaths account for more than half of COVID-19 deaths in Georgia. In Richmond County, 11 patients have died at Windermere Health and RehabilitationCcenter, four at Kentwood Nursing Center, and according to data from the Department of Community Health, the most recent surge in deaths in a local long term care facility is at Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home. As of Friday, eight patients have died of the virus there.

The impact of the protests that began a week ago in our area is still unknown and is most likely not reflected in this data.

“I do think if we have a second wave to be careful not to blame it on events," Coule said. "It could be related or it could be that we were already having an uptick that occurred prior to these incidents.”

Little is known about the spread of the virus during the heat of the summer months, but incoming data over the next few weeks should shed light on it.

The good news is that both Georgia and South Carolina still have about 30% of their intensive care beds open. If you remember back a few months ago, one of the biggest concerns from health officials was a surge in COVID-19 would lead to a shortage of beds.

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