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Four more confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, from Forsyth County were reported on Friday, bringing the county's total to 19 as the number of infections in Georgia topped 2,000.
While the Georgia Department of Public Health reported a total of 1,643 total cases in Georgia at 7 p.m. on Thursday, March 26, including 15 in Forsyth County, the statewide number grew to 2,001 by noon on Friday, March 27. The number of deaths has now reached 64 statewide, with 566 more hospitalized.
The department is updating totals at noon and 7 p.m. daily.
Friday afternoon marked the largest daily increase in confirmed cases in Georgia, an increase that “is in part reflective of improvement in electronic reporting efficiency from commercial laboratories," the DPH said in a statement. "These reports often have sparse patient data and DPH will be working to complete these records, so data will change over time.”
Nearly three quarters of counties in Georgia now have a confirmed case of COVID-19, led by Fulton with 307 known cases. A total of 217 cases are still listed in unknown counties by the GDPH.
The increase comes a day after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp defended not issuing a statewide stay-at-home order during a televised town hall Thursday night.
The Republican governor extended an order to keep public schools closed earlier Thursday. Kemp has also ordered bars and nightclubs shut, banned gatherings of more than 10 people and ordered those with serious medical conditions to shelter in place.
But he has resisted calls to take more restrictive action like ordering all people to stay at home or shutting non-essential businesses, and instead left those decisions to local governments. That’s led to a patchwork of various restrictions and orders that have sprung up from cities and counties across the state.
Asked during a televised town hall event Thursday night why he has not ordered people to stay home, Kemp said he had to balance the needs of all across the state, including counties that had no reported cases, and consider the implications on jobs.
“I still have arrows in the quiver if you will, if things get worse,” Kemp said as he urged Georgians to follow local orders and adhere to social distancing practices.
Forsyth County's first death related to COVID-19 was reported Tuesday by the GDPH. The individual was an 88-year-old male, according to the department. It's unknown whether the individual had any underlying medical conditions, according to department records. The DPH could provide no further information.
Little information has been available about the county's positive COVID-19 cases, except that one is confirmed to be an employee at a Publix in Cumming and another is an employee at a manufacturing plant in the county.
Publix officials confirmed Monday night that an employee at its Cruse Marketplace store, at 1735 Buford Highway in Cumming, tested positive. The company said the store has completed a disinfection-level deep cleaning, using guidelines from the CDC and the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“At Publix, the health and well-being of our associates, our customers and our communities remains our top priority,” said Maria Brous, Publix Director of Communications in a statement. “Following our disinfection protocol and with the support of the public health department, the store is operating normal business hours. We are thinking of our associate and their family during this time and wishing them a swift recovery.”
Publix also said they were told by the Georgia Department of Public Health that store customers are considered to be at low risk of exposure and the products sold at the store do not represent a risk to customers.
Panduit Corporation confirmed one of the company's employees at its manufacturing plant, located at 1819 Atlanta Highway in Cumming, also tested positive.
Spokeswoman Lisa Mattes said that the employee self-quarantined and the company notified any employees that the person may have come into contact with.
The plant was temporarily shut down until Monday, March 23. Mattes said the plant was also thoroughly sanitized and cleaned after its closure.
“We have taken very aggressive measures to secure the health and safety of all employees there,” Mattes said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.