Hours before stay-at-home order ends, COVID-19 deaths in Georgia increase to 1,132

UPDATE [6:30 p.m.]: Hours after Gov. Brian Kemp announced that he will not be extending the state's shelter-in-place policy for the majority of Georgians, state officials announced 25 additional coronavirus deaths.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has recorded 1,132 deaths due to COVID-19, including 37 in the past 24 hours.

The DPH also added 227 confirmed cases of COVID-19 to Georgia’s count, raising the number of total cases to 26,260.

At some point, nearly 5,200 patients with COVID-19 have been hospitalized in Georgia, which is about 19.8% of all cases. In addition, 1,187 patients have been admitted into a hospital’s intensive care unit.

More than 149,000 tests have been conducted in Georgia, and about 17.6% of those have returned positive results.

Dougherty County continues to lead the state in deaths with 120, followed by Fulton with 117 and Cobb with 94. Since 11:30 a.m., Butts County recorded the most deaths with six, followed by Cobb with five and DeKalb and Gwinnett with two each.

In that same time frame, Hall County recorded the most new cases with 43, followed by DeKalb with 33 and Cobb with 30.

As of Thursday evening, there are 2,809 cases of COVID-19 in Fulton County, 2,027 in DeKalb, 1,786 in Gwinnett, 1,615 in Cobb, 1,332 in Hall, 713 in Clayton, 493 in Henry, 467 in Cherokee, 358 in Carroll, 319 in Douglas, 313 in Bartow, 298 in Forsyth, 196 in Newton and 186 in both Paulding and Rockdale.

In the past 24 hours, Georgia has recorded 626 cases of COVID-19, according to the DPH’s totals.

For the full update, click here.

ORIGINAL STORY [11:30 a.m.]: More than 26,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Georgia as of Thursday, officials said.

The data released at 11:25 a.m. by the Georgia Department of Public Health shows 26,033 verified infections, an increase of more than 750 cases in the past 24 hours. At least 1,107 Georgians have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus, according to the health department.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

As of just before noon Thursday, more than 5,000 people have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the outbreak began, and at least 1,163 have been admitted to intensive care units.

Georgia has conducted 143,790 tests for the virus, an increase of more than 3,500 in the past 24 hours.

Metro Atlanta continues to report the largest daily increases in cases. Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb and Hall counties account for more than 9,000 of the total infections across the state, or nearly two-fifths of the cases as reported Thursday.

There are at least 2,799 cases of the virus in Fulton, 1,994 in DeKalb, 1,766 in Gwinnett, 1,585 in Cobb, 1,289 in Hall, 697 in Clayton, 501 in Henry, 457 in Cherokee, 350 in Carroll, 311 in Douglas, 310 in Bartow, 292 in Forsyth, 193 in Newton, 184 in Rockdale and 176 in Paulding.

Gwinnett County saw the biggest increase in cases over a 24-hour period with 100 new infections reported. Neighboring Hall County reported an additional 86 since noon Wednesday, according to the health department.

Some of those cases can be attributed to a recent spike in infections among Georgia’s poultry workers. Gainesville in Hall County is home to several chicken plants.

» MORE: Hundreds of Georgia's poultry workers have tested positive for COVID-19

Fulton County verified 10 more virus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing its death toll just one below Dougherty County’s 119.

The hard-hit southwest Georgia county leads the state in deaths but its new infections have slowed. It now falls behind Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb in number of confirmed cases, according to the health department.

Georgia’s most recent data on new infections may be incomplete, as the state is now dating a confirmed case by the day symptoms began or a test was taken. It can take days or weeks for the final result to be reported, and the number of confirmed cases will be artificially low until they are updated.

» MORE: New changes to state's virus data confuse experts, residents alike

On its daily coronavirus updates website, the state acknowledges a 14-day window of uncertainty as data lags.

To maintain consistency, the AJC is reporting data as it is released by the health department and is not adjusting daily counts.

» DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia

» MORE: Map tracks coronavirus globally in real time 

The latest figures were released shortly before Gov. Brian Kemp decided to lift the state’s shelter-in-place order for most Georgians. The order, which went into effect April 3, will expire at midnight Thursday.

The only groups that will be required to shelter in place will be elderly and “medically fragile” residents through June 12, Kemp said. He also renewed restrictions that require nursing homes and long-term care facilities to take aggressive steps to curb the virus until that date.

» MORE: Kemp to lift statewide shelter-in-place for most Georgians on Friday

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a study of Georgia COVID-19 cases shows the virus to be more dangerous than previously thought for the young and healthy.

The CDC said the findings suggest a need for continued social distancing measures for all of Georgia's population, not just the old or very sick. According to one widely cited computer model from the University of Washington, an ease of restrictions would not be possible until after June 27 in order to contain the virus.

That model had predicted that Georgia would reach its peak deaths earlier this week, but taking data into account, found that the state reached the peak number of deaths April 7. The state health department reported 75 deaths that day, three less than the 78 it reported Monday.

» AJC IN-DEPTH: Kemp poised to lift restrictions, despite warnings of renewed outbreak

Another development in the fight against COVID-19 could mean treatment may soon be available for emergency use. Federal officials said Wednesday that a preliminary trial of the drug remdesivir showed it could shorten recovery times by about a third.

Emory University is closely involved in the research into other potential uses for the drug, which was originally developed as a treatment for Ebola.

» MORE: Potential COVID-19 drug tested by Emory shows promise, Fauci says

All those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are still urged to schedule an appointment with their local health department, their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic to get tested. Do not show up unannounced at a testing site, emergency room or other health care facility.

State and local officials are also partnering with the CDC to conduct antibody testing at randomly selected homes in Fulton and DeKalb counties over the next week.

Georgians can 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.