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Gwinnett now has more coronavirus cases than anywhere else in Georgia

Dr. Stephen Smith of Piedmont Healthcare collects swabs from Legacy Transitional Care & Rehabilitation residents to test for the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, with assistance from Georgia Army National Guard infection control member Pfc. Cierra Williams (far right at the doorway). Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com AJC FILE PHOTO
Dr. Stephen Smith of Piedmont Healthcare collects swabs from Legacy Transitional Care & Rehabilitation residents to test for the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, with assistance from Georgia Army National Guard infection control member Pfc. Cierra Williams (far right at the doorway). Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com AJC FILE PHOTO

There are more coronavirus cases in Gwinnett County than anywhere else in the state, following a spike in positive tests in recent days.

Dr. Audrey Arona, the CEO and district health director at the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale Health Department, said the increase in cases comes about as more people are being tested in the county. Still, she said the positive test rate in Gwinnett was higher than the state average of 8.6%. One recent day at a south Gwinnett testing center, 27% of those who were tested were shown to have COVID-19.

“I do believe it’s a matter of how many tests are being performed,” Arona said. “We’re trying to do as many tests as we can.”

Friday afternoon, 5,089 positive coronavius cases had been confirmed in the county. In Fulton, which had had the most in the state, there are 5,069 confirmed cases. DeKalb County has 4,282 confirmed cases, while other metro counties have fewer than that.

As of Friday, 45,647 tests had been conducted in Gwinnett.

“I think that’s why our cases are high,” Arona said. “That’s a good thing. We want to know. … We’re trying desperately to try to stop the transmission of this.”

The county had one testing site, at the Lawrenceville Health Department, in addition to a pop-up site at the Infinite Energy Center. Another testing site opened May 20 at the Lilburn First Baptist Church, and Health Department spokesman Chad Wasdin said that was where more positive tests were coming from.

Wasdin said the area is more dense, and it’s easier for COVID-19 to spread in areas where people tend to be closer. Additionally, he said, the Lilburn testing center is accessible to public transportation and has a walk-up option. Other testing centers in the county have only had vehicle access.

“The more you look, the more you find,” Wasdin said.

As the number of positive tests spiked, Gwinnett was briefly considered a hotspot in the state, Arona said. But that designation relies on a 5% increase in positive cases, a rate Arona said was not sustained. Wasdin said there was no event the county had found that accounted for the rise in cases other than more testing.

Even as cases rise, Arona said, the number of hospitalizations has not followed suit. There also hasn’t been a similar spike in deaths, she said. State data shows Gwinnett has had 769 coronavirus-related hospitalizations and 152 deaths.

Arona said the positive cases have been skewing younger, where the disease tends to be less severe.

Still, she said, residents must continue to be vigilant about their health as the state continues to relax restrictions and more businesses return to normal. Arona encouraged “personal responsibility” and urged residents to continue to wash their hands, wear masks, practice social distancing and stay home when they feel sick.

“Don’t get lax about all of this,” she said. “Just assume every single person next to you is positive.”

To make an appointment to get tested for COVID-19 in Gwinnett County, call 770-513-5631 or visit gnrhealth.com.