Georgia cases of COVID-19 approach 2,200; 65 deaths reported

A microscope image shows the virus that causes COVID-19.

Georgia’s confirmed coronavirus caseload doubled in just three days, reaching 2,198 people infected and 65 deaths on Friday evening, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The data showed 607 of those patients were hospitalized as of 7 p.m. Friday.

There have now been 13 cases reported in Southeast Georgia: seven in Glynn County, two in Ware County, two in Camden County, one in Charlton County and one in Pierce County.

Fulton County had the highest number of cases, 347, followed by Dekalb with 219 cases and Dougherty -- in Southwest Georgia -- with 203 cases. Dougherty County, where Albany is the county seat, has the most deaths -- 13. Fulton County has 12 deaths and Cobb -- also in the Atlanta area -- has two more.

Of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia, 57% were between 18 and 59 years old, 34% were age 60 and up, 1% were age 17 or younger and 8% were of unknown age. Of the COVID-19 patients, 49% were female and 46% were male, with the gender unknown for the other 5%.

Friday’s surge came the day after Gov. Brian Kemp defended his decision to refrain from imposing a statewide shelter-in-place order. “I still have arrows in the quiver if you will, if things get worse,” the Republican said in a televised town hall meeting Thursday night.

“You have people saying, `Look, we need to be working. I’m worried about losing my home, I’m worried about getting meals for my kids,’” Kemp said. “And so those are the kinds of things we’re balancing.”

Kemp has largely left it to Georgia’s city and county leaders to issue a patchwork of local shutdown orders as limited testing shows the outbreak spreading across the state. The Georgia Department of Public Health said COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in more than 100 of Georgia’s 159 counties.

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Kemp has extended public school closures through April 24, shuttered bars and nightclubs, banned gatherings of more than 10 people and ordered those with serious medical conditions as well as anyone exposed to the virus to stay home.

They include a growing number of lawmakers: State Rep. Matthew Gambill, a Cartersville Republican, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and is recovering at home, said Kaleb McMichen, spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston.

Gambill experienced mild symptoms and has been in self-quarantine since the weekend of March 14, after learning he had been exposed to the virus, McMichen said. The lawmaker did not return to the Capitol for a special session March 16 to address the pandemic. Five members of the state Senate also confirmed they contracted the virus.

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