TLDR: Probably not.
Georgia’s Governor wants to open up his state this week. Fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage therapy businesses can reopen.
But are they ready? What’s the state of their epidemic?
Everyone – including the Trump administration – says testing is critical. Georgia has had growing tests for several weeks, but like the other states testing has fallen off in the last week as consumable supply shortages slowed things down. At the current rate of 3000 tests per day, they are cable of testing 0.19% of their population per week. This is grossly inadequate for any real testing/tracing regimen, so by opening up they are making a bet that the caseload won’t take off in an uncontrolled way because if it does, there will be little to control it and no way to see it coming.
Growth of cases
Georgia was on a fast moving exponential curve, but has since moved into a more linear growth curve. At 800 new cases per day, they are picking up new infected cases at 10x the rate of King County, WA and 3-4x Washington state.
They show signs of Social distancing working, but just barely. It really got a grip around April 9, and now has plateaued – they’re not yet on the downslope. For reference, let’s compare GA to King County’s case growth.
Georgia has never – not for one day – grown cases as slowly as WA in spite of significantly more testing in Washington. Our case growth rate is now hovering around 1% per day (double every 70 days), theirs is at 5% per day (doubling every 14 days). I’d summarize this: After WA got on early start, it quickly got the infection under control. GA then delayed responding and rapidly got more seriously infected than WA had ever been and has now begun to claw back their infections – but Washington is way ahead of them.
How about Deaths?
A lot more people are dying in GA than in WA, and their trend is accelerating. About 40 people per day are dying of COVID in Georgia vs. 1-2 in King County and 3 or so in all of Washington.
Worse, their rate of growth in deaths is considerably above King County’s. They are increasing their death count at 8% per day, Washington is under 1% per day.
Given all of this data, I’d summarize the state of Georgia as this: They’ve had an uncontrolled epidemic, tried shutting down for a couple of weeks, started seeing some results, but now are opening up.
And, they are just giving up. The virus is still VERY prevalent in their population, so opening up will definitely increase its opportunities to spread and to step back off linear and into exponential growth.
Given this, they are certainly making this move prematurely if you believe epidemiologists. They have one hope, one bet. They are betting that the limited opening up they are enabling will not be sufficient to spread the virus. Because the virus is there, in great numbers. The question is whether newly cautious people can go to fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, hair and nail salons, and massage therapy without spreading the virus. All of the data I’ve seen – which is preliminary – says this is a horrible bet. But at some point someone needs to take the first step, so thank you Georgia for risking your citizens for the rest of us.
I only wish it was a better experiment. They’re jumping too soon, and in the time it takes to see the results their much larger infected population, lack of adequate testing, and uncertain leap mean that if it doesn’t work for them, it might still work for more patient populations.
We’ll know for sure in three weeks.