Having laid waste to southwest Georgia, the Covid-19 virus now appears to be making its way east across a swath of rural counties that largely escaped the virus for the first few months of the pandemic.
Like the Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, the Covid-19 forces are marching to the sea.
The bug long ago breached I-75 and began blazing a trail across a cluster of roughly 40 largely rural counties in southeast and east-central Georgia on its way to the coast.
It has, in fact, already reached Brunswick and Glynn County, where the infection rate is up more than 1,300 percent since Memorial Day, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH). On Memorial Day – May 25th – Glynn County reported 87 confirmed cases of Covid-19; on Tuesday, July 7th, that number was up to 1,231.
As usual, with this kind of data, it’s helpful to map it. For the purposes of this map, I’ve excluded all counties that didn’t have an infection growth rate of at least 100 percent during the May 25-July 7 period.
Hence the blank area over virtually all of southwest Georgia on this map. (The shading on this map is intended to illustrate the extent of the increase in a county’s Covid-19 infections; the darker the shade, the bigger the increase from May 25th to July 7th.)
All the missing counties had May 25-July 7 growth rates of less than 100 percent, most of them dramatically under that level. While those counties – once arguably the worst Covid-19 hotspot in the world – are still adding cases, the pace of that growth has slowed dramatically.
As one example, Albany and Dougherty County, ground zero for the Southwest Georgia outbreak, reported a total of 1,727 confirmed cases on Memorial Day; since then, it’s added 303 new cases, an increase of 17.5 percent that pushed its total to 2,030.
An hour or so to the southeast, Lowndes County reported 249 confirmed cases on Memorial Day; as of Tuesday, it had added 1,410 new cases, for a total of 1,659 and a growth rate for the May 25-July 7 period of 566.3 percent. Lowndes County may not depose Dougherty as the Covid-19 king of South Georgia, but it has a fair chance of catching it if the current trends continue.
While the 40 or so east-central and southeast Georgia counties highlighted in the map constitute the biggest area of Covid-19 growth, other important sub-regions are being hit as well. A number border counties showed significant growth during the May 25-July 7 period, including a cluster of counties anchored by Muscogee County on the Alabama line and another group in Georgia’s northwest corner. Whitfield County, center of the state’s vital carpet industry, posted a 417 percent increase during the six-week period, and four mountain counties that border North Carolina — Fannin, Towns, Union and Rabun — are reporting significant increases.