New COVID-19 cases are trending downward in Glynn County, but health officials warn against complacency.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Public Health said Glynn County had reported 2,392 cases of the severe flu-like respiratory illness since the outbreak began in March.

Of those, 156 were reported in the last week and 228 were diagnosed in the seven days before that, which reveals a continuing trend of decline in the number of new cases recorded daily.

“The seven-day rolling average (of new cases) on July 5, one month ago, was 88.86 and it’s down to 23.39 today,” said Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the Coastal Health District. “A reasonably good drop and trending in the right direction.”

The health department uses three metrics when measuring the spread of coronavirus — the seven-day rolling average, 14-day community transmission index and daily case rate per 100,000 residents.

He said Glynn County is on the downward slope in all three.

“Things are looking better than they were three or four weeks ago, but this is not the time to rip your mask off and go wild because they’re still at unacceptable levels,” Davis said. “I would encourage people to adhere to social distancing and masks. Those remain the only good tools we have.”

It’s a positive development, but not good enough. It’s a lot of numbers, he said, but they all mean something.

“It means continue what you’re doing,” Davis said. “Communities that have been able to open schools without widespread transmission were all levels of 5 or fewer, and (Glynn is) at 27.”

Glynn County Schools plan to return to in-person teaching on Aug. 20 with a recommendation to wear masks and changes to facilitate social distancing. Davis declined to comment on the school system’s plans.

None of this means Glynn County is in the clear. While the county’s infection rate is lower than the state average, it is significantly higher than the average across the Coastal Health District, which includes Camden, McIntosh, Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, Liberty and Long counties.

While the number of new cases reported daily has been in decline for weeks, more and more people have died with the virus on a daily basis.

A total of 42 Glynn County residents with COVID-19 had died as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, 16 more than the week prior. Only 13 people had died with with the virus infection 14 days ago.

Davis said the rapid deaths in a short span are likely a direct result of the earlier spike.

“The typical pattern starts with an increase in reported cases, followed by 10 days to three weeks of increased hospitalizations followed by a week or so with increased deaths,” Davis said. “Then the hospital rates will come down and the death rate will come down.”

Hospitalizations in Glynn County haven’t slowed down much. As of July 25, 68 COVID-19 patients made up 30 percent of all inpatients in the Southeast Georgia Health System’s Brunswick hospital. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, the hospital was caring for 69 patients.

Recent holidays are most likely the main contributors to the recent case surge and subsequent increase in deaths, he said.

“I personally kind of think the Memorial Day activities are what led to our increase, and thus far I have not seen another increase I could attribute directly to July 4th,” Davis said.

It’s that post-holiday surge that put Glynn County on the map, and not in a good way. The Golden Isles reached daily totals high enough to earn the hotspot label.

Glynn was not the only one, however. Albany and Waycross also had massive spikes, both of which have seen similar declines to Glynn County.

“You could say that some areas that were leading the charge initially have cooled down a little bit,” Davis said.

To make sure cases continue to decline, the public is encouraged to wear masks in public, practice regular hand-washing, cover coughs and sneezes and stay home if feeling sick.

“Avoid indoor crowded places, especially where people aren’t wearing a mask,” Davis added.

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