Atlanta’s latest coronavirus updates: Thursday, May 21

A quick roundup of what's happening in metro Atlanta and what you may have missed

Atlanta coronavirus updates
A drive-thru testing sit in Jericho, New York.

Photograph by Al Bello/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the state received more criticism for how it presents its COVID-19 data. Here’s your Thursday morning update:

• As of publication time, a total of 40,157 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Georgia. 1,724 people have died. 404,207 tests have been conducted. A total of 7,194 of those tested were hospitalized at the time. [GA Dept. of Public Health]

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer broke a surprising story yesterday—a state Department of Public Health official confirmed to the paper that the number of COVID-19 tests the state reports daily, currently listed as more than 400,000, includes both COVID-19 tests and antibody tests. The governor’s office has since requested that the antibody testing numbers be removed from the overall testing figure, according to the AJC, with public health commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey telling the paper, “I didn’t fully appreciate how many antibody tests have been done.” 57,000 antibody tests were included in the state’s testing figure, about 14 percent of the figure, the AJC concluded.

Dr. Harry J. Heiman, a clinical associate professor at Georgia State’s School of Public Health, told the Ledger-Enquirer that combining the tests is like “putting apples and oranges together and calling them oranges.” He continued, “If anything, it skews those numbers to make it appear like the level of disease relative to testing is actually dropping much more dramatically than it is.” It also changes the figures for how many COVID-19 tests the state is actually performing. As the AJC notes, the state was previously considered 20th in the nation for the amount of testing per capita we were doing. Removing the antibody tests bumps us down to 29th. The problem hasn’t only occurred in Georgia—officials in Virginia also recently announced they would stop including antibody tests in their totals. [Ledger-Enquirer/AJC]

• The CDC has released some preliminary guidelines for schools, noting that operating a school as usual is considered the “highest risk” for spreading COVID-19; the lowest risk is virtual learning, and in the middle involves smaller classes with kids staying in the same classroom and staying six feet apart. Among the suggestions for preventing spread in schools: having students and faculty wear masks whenever possible (the CDC admits this will be difficult for younger children), increased cleaning and disinfecting, avoiding sharing items as much as possible, spacing desks six-feet apart if possible, having desks all face the same direction, spacing out students on the bus if possible, creating one-way hallways, closing cafeterias and playgrounds if possible (stagger use if not), and having students eat lunch (preferably brought from home) in classrooms. Most Atlanta schools have not yet announced their plans for the fall. [CDC]

• Public restrooms have never been known for being a bastion of cleanliness, but now researchers are finding that the coronavirus can be found in feces for up to 30 days after a person recovers from COVID-19, WSB-TV reports. How does this affect you? Well, according the president of the American Restroom Association, when you flush a public toilet, which almost never has a lid, it shoots up a water plume that can contain fecal matter. The ARA president told WSB-TV that no COVID-19 cases have been connected to toilet flushing, but it makes single-person restrooms an even more attractive option. Otherwise, the usual advice applies: wash your hands, and don’t touch your face. [WSB-TV]

• The temporary hospital at GWCC—constructed in mid-April to hold non-critical COVID-19 patients—is wrapping up. Only 17 patients were treated at the 200-bed facility, with the last patient discharged on Tuesday. Rather than being dismantled immediately, the hospital space will sit “dormant” for the next few weeks, just in case it’s needed, the AJC reports. [AJC]

• The city of Tucker will pass out 500 free masks today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Rehoboth Baptist Church and 500 more masks on Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at NETWorks Cooperative Ministry. [WSB]

• While it’s likely we could see many canceled Fourth of July celebrations, the city of Kennesaw has announced it will postpone its Salute to America, originally scheduled for July 3, to September 12. [AJC]