Georgia reports vaccine jump, but still trails top states

ATLANTA  — After a slow start to its coronavirus vaccine rollout, Georgia is reporting progress in getting people injected though it is still behind the best-performing states in the country.

The state, meanwhile, may be past the current peak of new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations. The number of newly reported cases, the total number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals, and the share of viral tests coming back positive are all declining.

Gov. Brian Kemp said Tuesday that for the second straight week, Georgia more than doubled its number of reported COVID-19 vaccinations.

More than 423,000 people had received the vaccine as of Monday, according to state health officials. That's roughly just under 4 percent of the state's population and 46 percent of the two vaccines that it has received. Some states have administered a first dose to more than 5 percent of their populations, according to federal data. West Virginia says more than 7 percent of its population has received a first injection, and it's used more than 97 percent of the vaccine doses it's received.

Kemp said in a statement Georgia had “a long way to go,” but the latest figures show “encouraging progress” amid a limited supply of vaccine.

The state's coronavirus figures, meanwhile, are improving. The seven-day average of newly reported cases from viral and rapid antigen tests is now running about 8,000 a day, down from a peak of 9,800 on January 13. The number of hospitalized patients has not fallen as dramatically, but is down from a Jan. 13 peak of 5,714. And the share of positive viral tests, which peaked above 19% earlier this month, has now fallen to about 17%.

Numbers could rise again, but the figures suggest that Georgia’s post-Christmas surge may be easing. Some neighboring states are posting similar declines.

Still, the figures in Georgia remain near their all-time peaks. Georgia had the fourth-highest diagnosis rate in the week ended Monday, with one in every 186 people testing positive during that time, according to figures kept by The Associated Press

And about 30 hospitals were diverting patients on Tuesday, including six hospitals of the Marietta-based WellStar system and both branches of University Hospital in Augusta.

Because some patients become progressively more ill, the number of patients requiring intensive care continues to rise, with nearly 2,800 ICU beds full on Tuesday. The number of patients on ventilators also continues to rise.