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North Fulton cities saw increase in new COVID-19 cases in June

A woman has a COVID-19 test Wednesday at the Clark County Combined Health District's free COVID testing clinic at Hayward Middle School. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
A woman has a COVID-19 test Wednesday at the Clark County Combined Health District's free COVID testing clinic at Hayward Middle School. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

North Fulton has seen an increase in coronavirus cases but officials in Milton, Alpharetta, Roswell, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek are not currently taking steps to order citizens to wear face masks in public.

Northern cities in the county had a significant rise in new cases of COVID-19 during the last two weeks of June compared to earlier in the month. Fulton County Board of Health released an epidemiology report Monday with details on test results broken out by city.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Georgia has reported more than 103,890 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

The board of health report showed the number of new cases between June 15-28 was higher than new cases during the period of June 1-14. Sandy Springs had an increase of 146%; Roswell was 129% higher; Alpharetta, 470%; Milton was 206% and Johns Creek 190%.

The average number of new cases per 100,000 residents for each north Fulton city from June 14-28 was 248 in Sandy Springs, 173 in Roswell, 176 in Alpharetta, 144 in Milton and 111 in Johns Creek. For comparison, Fulton County had an average of 273 per 100,000 residents in the same time span.

Upticks continued in the cities during the first week of July. The report showed 24% of Fulton County’s new COVID-19 cases occurred in the north Fulton cities during the past two weeks. The data showed 50% of new cases during that time were in Atlanta and 18% in south Fulton county.

Atlanta and East Point announced this week they will mandate face masks be worn in public and DeKalb County and Doraville are considering whether to do the same. Other governments in Georgia, including Savannah and Athens-Clarke County, have passed similar ordinances requiring masks. The new rules, however, conflict with a statewide order from Gov. Brian Kemp that "strongly encourages" — but does not mandate — the use of masks, and bans local governments from enacting stricter measures to fight COVID-19.

Reached this week, Sandy Springs, Roswell, Alpharetta, Milton and Johns Creek were reluctant to go beyond the governor’s order, signed on June 29.

After seeing the news of the increase in COVID-19 cases, several Alpharetta residents left comments on the city’s Facebook page calling for the wearing of masks. Some said many passersby at destination spots such as the downtown city center or Avalon haven’t worn masks.

Alpharetta Assistant City Administrator James Drinkard said the city wants people to wear facial coverings but the mayor and city council members have not discussed a mandate.

“The governor’s order does not allow us to exceed his requirements,” Drinkard said. “He has been explicit on what his position is on that and we respect that. We do however encourage everyone to follow (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines and that includes wearing masks in public.”

Milton has no plans for an ordinance requiring face masks, Communications Director Greg Botelho said. Similar to Alpharetta, he added, that city officials don’t have the power to go beyond the governor’s order.

Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood said he wants the public to wear masks.

“COVID-19 remains very much with us, with the number of positive cases in our area having risen significantly over the last few weeks,” Lockwood said, in a statement. “We want our citizens to stay healthy for their sake, their loved ones’ sake, and the entire city’s sake. To do that, we need everyone’s cooperation to help curb this coronavirus’ spread.”