By Julie Hairston
Life in Southeast Atlanta’s neighborhoods has settled into the “new normal,” as residents cope with Georgia’s ongoing struggle with COVID-19. Controversies rage over reports that Georgia leads the nation for risk of coronavirus infection. Meanwhile, Southeast Atlanta children continue with distance learning, many adults work from home, and local businesses adjust to new safety requirements.
Until recently, detailed information about COVID-19 infection rates at the neighborhood level was difficult to obtain. Navigating the information now available can be confusing. But by special request to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the data now shows the number of diagnosed cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the three zip codes comprising Southeast Atlanta.
In data provided by the department, zip code 30315 reported the largest number of cases in the area, 635 as of August 11. Zip code 30312 reported 603 and zip code 30316 reported 590. The most hospitalizations of the three areas also came from 30315: 76. Zip codes 30312 and 30316 each reported 63 hospitalizations. Death numbers were highest for 30312, at 24 as of August 11, while the other two zip codes reported 17 deaths each by that date.
Zip Code 30312
Total # of Cases as of 8/11/2020: 603
Zip Code 30315
Total # of Cases as of 8/11/2020: 635
Zip Code 30316
Total # of Cases as of 8/11/2020: 590
Source: Georgia Department of Public Health
Eric Nickens, Jr., public information officer for the DeKalb County Board of Health, said case numbers reported by the county lag behind the numbers reported by the state because the county conducts verification and contact tracing for all DeKalb cases reported by the state. “We have to do the contact tracing and verify that the data is correct,” he said.
Of the three zip codes, only 30316 includes a portion of DeKalb County. Nickens said that of the 59 zip codes in DeKalb, 30316 ranks 20th in the number of cases. He added that 30316 experienced a small uptick in the rate of confirmed cases among those tested during the week of August 17. The DeKalb County Board of Health operates a testing center in 30316, at Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church, 1879 Glenwood Avenue. Nickens said the site is “busy,” administering 200-300 tests per day, Monday through Friday. The testing center is open from 10:00am to 3:00pm on weekdays. For a testing appointment, call 404-294-3700, Option 1. Nickens added that many retail drugstores and other healthcare organizations also offer COVID-19 testing throughout the metro Atlanta area, including Southeast Atlanta.
In Fulton County, the Fulton County Commission recently received a report on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, deaths, and impact projections. Findings included dropping infection rates and hospitalizations in August, but also a rising death toll from COVID-19 in the county. Testing demand, according to the report, has also dropped. Dr. David Holland, director of Clinical Services for the Fulton County Board of Health, said that since late July, COVID-19 testing in Fulton County has declined significantly.
In Fulton County’s 59 zip codes, an epidemiological report provided by the Fulton County Board of Health shows that 30315 ranks fifth in the number of COVID-19 cases, with 30316 and 30312 ranking 21st and 22nd respectively. The Fulton County report shows the average number of new cases declining in all zip codes between August 4 and August 17. The report warned the commission, however, that the county should be braced for a surge in hospitalizations in October as case numbers rise again amid cooler weather.
The Fulton County Board of Health operates a testing site at its Center for Health and Rehabilitation, 265 Boulevard. The testing center is open from 8:30am to 4:00pm Monday through Friday and on Saturdays from 9:00am to 12:00pm. The center has plenty of available appointments and fast turnaround on results, according to Board of Health officials.
Fulton County is working on a Memorandum of Understanding with the City of Atlanta for testing, contact tracing, and social services. Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts has launched a social media campaign called #MasksMatter to encourage county residents to wear masks in public places. “This campaign is designed to further emphasize and promote the scientific fact that wearing a mask is a key component in the fight to defeat COVID-19,” he said in a prepared statement. Pitts added that he is concerned that many younger county residents are not wearing masks.
Mobile testing sites operated by CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) are providing free testing in locations throughout Metro Atlanta. For sites and operating hours, visit www.coreresponse.org/covid-19/atlanta-ga.