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The Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed two more cases of COVID-19 in Forsyth County as the number of cases and deaths from the novel coronavirus continued to climb in Georgia.
By Thursday morning, Georgia had 287 confirmed cases spanning 36 counties, including three in Forsyth County. Fulton has the most with 66.
Seven new deaths caused by COVID-19 were confirmed Thursday by the DPH, including those of a 42-year-old woman and a 69-year-old man at an Albany hospital on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 10. Both had existing medical conditions.
The disease caused by the new coronavirus also reached the steps of the state capitol Wednesday when State Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, announced he had been diagnosed, thrusting Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and 55 state senators into self-quarantine for 14 days.
Beach’s symptoms started March 10, according to the Associated Press. He attended the General Assembly’s special session Monday, March 16, to ratify Gov. Brian Kemp’s declaration of a public health emergency.
Beach was tested for the virus Saturday after his symptoms worsened and received the results Wednesday.
Kemp does not believe he was exposed, spokeswoman Candice Broce told the AP.
As the virus continues to spread, Kemp’s office announced Wednesday new guidelines for COVID-19 testing to prioritize the elderly and those with health conditions, first responders and health workers.
“The best way to serve the public is to protect the people who are protecting us in this battle,” Kemp said in a statement.
The number of cases of COVID-19 worldwide eclipsed 200,000 by Wednesday afternoon, according to the World Health Organization, with 8,648 deaths.
In Forsyth, new cases were confirmed on Wednesday and Thursday, including in an employee who works at Panduit Corporation’s manufacturing plant in Cumming.
Panduit spokeswoman Lisa Mattes said that the employee has since self-quarantined and the company has notified any employees that the person may have come into contact with.
The plant has been temporarily shut down until Monday, March 23, and employees who are able are working from home. Since the plant has closed, Mattes said there have been no additional confirmed cases. 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.
Forsyth County officials declared a state of emergency Wednesday, with Commission Chairwoman Laura Semanson signing a declaration for “all available resources of the county to be used as necessary to cope with the impact of COVID-19 in Forsyth County.”
“The intention of the state of emergency for Forsyth County is for us to be able to be more reactive, more responsive and to be able to act nimbly and quickly and be able to shift our resources, whether they be personnel or finances to be able to address the problems as they present,” Semanson said in a video announcing the declaration. “We are still going to be conducting the business of the county. We will simply be limiting the opportunities for this virus to spread within our buildings at this point.”
Starting Wednesday, all county government buildings will be closed to the public except meetings and work sessions for the Board of Commissioners at the County Administration Building, 110 E. Main Street.
Sabrina Kerns and Kelly Whitmire contributed to this story.