99 cases of coronavirus now confirmed in Georgia

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state of Georgia has increased to 99, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The latest data from the DHP shows the spike, which rose from 66 cases on Saturday.

Health officials have not answered questions about the number of people who have been tested in the state, and medical experts expect the actual number of cases is far greater.

“If you don’t have good testing you are releasing numbers that are really meaningless, just totally meaningless,” said Dr. Arthur Caplan, founding head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s School of Medicine.

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As of Sunday morning, there were 20 cases in Fulton County, 19 in Cobb County, 10 in DeKalb County, nine in Bartow County, six in Cherokee County, six in Dougherty County, five in Fayette County, four in Floyd County, four in Gwinnett County, two in Coweta, Clayton, Clarke, Lowndes, Lee and Gordon counties and one in Newton, Charlton, Henry and Polk counties, according to the latest data.

Officials previously confirmed that two of the confirmed cases including in DPH’s data are from Athens.

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Health officials have said COVID-19 can be spread by people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms, causing concern that many will unknowingly transmit the disease to at-risk populations.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks.

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Caplan called it unethical to announce coronavirus figures without including the caveat that so few people are actually being tested.

“Even the media should be saying these numbers basically are what is known given the limited testing we have and they are not to be trusted,” he said. “What’s going to happen is, in a week or 10 days those numbers are going to explode — we are going to see in the state of Georgia maybe tens of thousands of people all the sudden are infected ... That will freak people out to no end. But all it means is there are a whole lot of people who got infected who didn’t get sick.”

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On Friday, the Department of Public Health announced it would stop keeping an immediate tally of cases, opting instead to update its website with the latest figures each day at noon.

— AJC staff writers Shaddi Abusaid, Greg Bluestein and Carrie Teegardin contributed to this report.