UPDATE [7 p.m.]: Since noon, Georgia recorded nine new coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the state's toll to 881, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
In addition, 371 more cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in that time frame, bringing the state’s total to 21,883. Of those, 4,154 patients have been hospitalized at some point, which is about 19% of all cases.
Of the 108 counties to report at least one death from COVID-19, Dougherty remains the hardest hit with 108 deaths, followed by Fulton with 88 and Cobb with 66. Since noon, Fulton recorded the most new deaths with two.
Across the state, public health officials recorded 35 new deaths since Wednesday evening.
More than 101,000 tests have been conducted in Georgia, and about 21.6% of those have returned positive results.
At least 65.3% of those who died had a preexisting condition, but the DPH did not know that information for about 31.9% of the victims. Only 25 were confirmed to not have another condition that could have contributed to their death aside from COVID-19.
The DPH also releases data on the race and ethnicity of patients, but about 38.2% of patients had their race listed as unknown.
Of the remaining patients, about 32.4% were black, 24.5% were white and 1.2% were Asian, according to the latest data. About 6.6% of patients were listed as having Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.
The DPH recently expanded the race and ethnicity data to include those who died from the virus. The information for all but 27 victims is known.
About 53.8% of those who died were black and 40.4% were white, according to the latest data. Those with Hispanic ethnicity made up about 3.4% of the death toll, while Asians comprised of about 1.4%.
Only two counties, Glascock and Taliaferro, have not recorded their first case, according to the DPH. The remaining 157 counties in Georgia have at least one, with Fulton topping the list with 2,436 confirmed cases. Fulton also saw the most new cases since noon with 128, followed by DeKalb with 50, Gwinnett with 47 and Cobb with 42.
Since Wednesday evening, Georgia recorded 781 new cases.
As of 7 p.m. Thursday, there were 1,689 confirmed cases in DeKalb, 1,351 in Gwinnett, 1,326 in Cobb, 963 in Hall, 616 in Clayton, 413 in Henry, 365 in Cherokee, 273 in Douglas, 264 in Bartow, 235 in Forsyth, 156 in Fayette, 153 in Newton, 151 in Rockdale and 148 in Paulding.
Patients between the ages of 18 and 59 make up the majority of cases at 62%, while those 60 and older make up 34% of cases. The DPH does not release compiled data on how many patients have recovered.
ORIGINAL STORY [noon]: Georgia health officials are reporting 872 deaths related to the new coronavirus Thursday, nearly 100 more than at the start of this week.
The death toll stood at 775 on Monday, when Gov. Brian Kemp announced plans to begin reopening Georgia's economy.A total of 21,512 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across the state, up roughly 4% in the past 24 hours, according to the latest data from the Department of Public Health.
Since the outbreak began, 4,069 people have been hospitalized with the disease in Georgia, including 51 since data was last released Wednesday night.
Officials say those numbers are lagging as data rolls in from local officials and hospitals and do not reflect the crisis in real time. They may also be adjusted as the health department receives additional information.
In the past week, new infections have risen steadily each day at a rate of 5% or less amid ongoing controversy over Kemp’s decision to begin lifting restrictions on businesses. President Donald Trump criticized the move during a White House news briefing Wednesday night, saying it was “just too soon.”
The governor responded on Twitter that his decision, which he called “our next measured step,” still stands. Certain businesses, including fitness centers, salons and bowling alleys, will be allowed to reopen Friday, while in-person dining at restaurants and theaters can resume Monday.
“Earlier today, I discussed Georgia’s plan to reopen shuttered businesses for limited operations with (the president),” Kemp said in a tweet. “I appreciate his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times and the framework provided by the White House to safely move states forward.”
Just like the thousands of businesses currently operating throughout Georgia, I am confident that business owners who decide to reopen will adhere to Minimum Basic Operations, which prioritize the health and well-being of employees and customers. (3/3) #gapol
New infections increase by the hundreds daily in metro Atlanta. As of Thursday, there are 2,308 cases of the virus in Fulton, 1,639 in DeKalb, 1,304 in Gwinnett, 1,284 in Cobb, 932 in Hall, 600 in Clayton, 402 in Henry, 348 in Cherokee, 305 in Carroll, 262 in Douglas, 259 in Bartow, 231 in Forsyth, 149 in Newton, 148 in Rockdale and 147 in Paulding.
Dougherty County, an epicenter of the crisis in Georgia, continues to lead the state in deaths. The southwest Georgia county reported four more since Wednesday night, bringing its total to 110. Fulton County follows with 86 deaths as of Thursday, according to officials.
Two-thirds of the counties in the state have verified a virus-related death, including Glynn and Camden counties, which reported their first deaths Thursday. Of the deaths statewide, the majority have been seniors above the age of 60 or those with underlying health conditions.
Black Georgians, although they make up an estimated 32% of the state's population, are the most represented population in both cases and deaths, state data shows.
Facing a possible spike in new cases as the state gets back to business, Georgia is working to increase its testing capacity. An additional 6,990 tests were conducted statewide since data was last reported Wednesday night.
More than 100,000 tests have been performed since the outbreak began, according to the health department.
Drive-thru testing sites are now in operation across the state, including four more in metro Atlanta that went live Thursday. The new sites are modeled after a high-volume site at Augusta University that became operational in March and are expected to process as many as 260 people an hour, according to organizers.
Since last week, anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 is eligible to be tested. Testing is still prioritized for health care workers, first responders and other critical workers regardless of whether they are showing symptoms.
Even as some businesses are set to reopen Friday, all of Georgia remains under a shelter-in-place order through April 30. State leaders are encouraging the medically fragile to remain at home through May 13.
Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their local health department, their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at a testing site, emergency room or other health care facility.
Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals. — Please return to AJC.com for updates.