The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia increased significantly Thursday, and health officials have confirmed seven additional deaths.
A total of 287 Georgians have now tested positive for the new coronavirus, up from 197 cases Wednesday, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health.
Thursday's numbers are a 45% increase from the previous day, the largest jump since cases spiked Saturday amid an influx of new tests.
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At least 10 Georgians have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Three deaths were announced by hospital officials Wednesday, one at an undisclosed Emory Healthcare location and two at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany. On Thursday, the Albany hospital announced two additional deaths.
State health authorities have confirmed two of the deaths at Phoebe Putney Hospital are related to COVID-19, but they have not confirmed any of the other deaths reported in the past two days.
According to officials, the two Albany patients were a 42-year-old woman and a 69-year-old woman with preexisting medical conditions.
The first confirmed Georgia death from COVID-19, reported on March 12, was a 67-year-old man being treated at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta.
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State Sen. Brandon Beach said Wednesday he has tested positive for COVID-19. The Alpharetta Republican is the first known state lawmaker to test positive for the virus, triggering a call for the entire Georgia legislature to self-quarantine.
Gov. Brian Kemp has said he does not plan to isolate himself as has not met with the senator recently.
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It is unknown if Beach’s case is among the 287 statewide. The state Department of Public Health is only reporting the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in its daily updates, not presumptive positive or suspected ones.
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New cases were reported Thursday in Bibb, Early, Glynn, Laurens, Peach and Muscogee counties, bringing the total number affected counties to 35.
Fulton County continues to see the largest increase in cases, with 17 new cases since Wednesday. Thirteen new cases were confirmed in Dougherty County, and nine new cases in Cobb.
As of Thursday, there were 66 cases of the virus in Fulton County; 37 in Cobb; 26 in Bartow; 22 in DeKalb; 20 in Dougherty; 16 in Cherokee; 12 in Gwinnett; nine in Fayette; eight in Clarke; six each in Clayton, Floyd and Lowndes; five in Hall; four in Gordon; three each in Coweta, Henry, Forsyth, Lee, Newton and Paulding; two each in Early, Glynn, Laurens, Richmond and Troup; and one each in Barrow, Bibb, Charlton, Columbia, Houston, Muscogee, Peach, Polk, Rockdale and Whitfield. The counties of origin were unknown for six cases.
Among them, about 53% of cases occurred in men, according to data from the health department. The adult population younger than 60 continues to make up the largest portion of the confirmed cases at 46%.
People 60 and older account for 35%, about 1% are children and the ages of the remaining 18% are unknown.
The 287 positive cases were confirmed from more than 1,800 tests conducted across the state, according to health officials.
With Georgia taking steps to ration its limited supply of test kits and hospital systems urging mild cases not to seek testing, experts say the number of cases is likely far higher.
For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks.
Emory Healthcare, Piedmont Healthcare and Wellstar Healthcare, three of the largest hospital systems in the state, are advising those who can recover at home to do so.
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“Many Georgians are eager to be tested right now, but we need to be mindful of our resources,” Kemp said Wednesday. “Georgia’s elderly, those with chronic, underlying health conditions, those who live in a long-term care facility like an assisted living facility or nursing home, and those serving on the front lines as a healthcare worker, first responder, long-term care facility staffer or law enforcement need tests.”
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