Cobb County saw a surge in positive COVID-19 tests last week, setting two daily highs and a record 685 new cases over the seven-day period. That’s 277 more cases than the previous high of 408 cases set in mid-April.

On Tuesday of last week, there were 165 new cases reported. The previous high was 118 positives on May 6. Here is last week’s count by day: Sunday, 52; Monday, 76; Tuesday, 165 (record); Wednesday,135 (second highest day); Thursday, 78; Friday, 86; and Saturday, 93.

The record-setting pace got a reprieve Monday when Cobb saw only 23 more coronavirus cases than it had the previous day, per the state Department of Public Health. The county has had a cumulative total of 4,630 confirmed cases.

Dr. Janet Memark, director of Cobb and Douglas Public Health, said the district’s recent surge of confirmed COVID-19 cases is in part due to fewer people following public health guidelines.

“There are a lot of theories as to why we may be having an increase in numbers. I do believe that we expected to see this happen after reopening the state,” she said in an email to the MDJ. “I want to reiterate that the only ways to combat this spread at this time is social distancing, staying home when you are sick and wearing face coverings. Over the last few weeks, I have noticed less and less people wearing their face masks or social distancing. We cannot become complacent. I do believe this is one of the reasons we are seeing an increase in numbers. Following these simple actions can help keep our community be as safe and healthy as possible and will also help slow the spread of the virus.”

Last week, Memark said in a Cobb County government video that the district is seeing higher percentages of individuals testing positive for the virus, indicating that the recent rise in cases is due to community spread rather than increased testing.

The local public health director said hospitalizations are increasing overall in Cobb, including in adults in their 20s and 30s.

Memark stressed anyone going out in public should wear a mask.

“I urge everyone to wear a face covering or a mask whenever they are out in public. Face coverings or masks can help keep people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Studies show that they help keep respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and reaching other people,” she said. “You should especially wear a mask if there is not a way for you to keep socially distanced.”

Cobb County Commission Chairman Mike Boyce said he isn’t looking to take action in response to the rise in cases, since the state government hasn’t imposed any restrictions amid a statewide rise in cases.

Under Gov. Brian Kemp’s public emergency order, local governments can’t have regulations more or less restrictive than the state’s.

“As you well know any actions we would take as a County would have to comply with the Governor’s Declaration of Public Emergency. When he revises his guidelines, we would respond accordingly,” Boyce told the MDJ in an email.

The head of the World Health Organization said the coronavirus pandemic is “not even close to being over” and that the outbreak is accelerating globally.

At a news briefing Monday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday marks six months since the U.N. health agency was first informed of a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in China — the first indications of the coronavirus’ emergence.

“Six months ago, none of us could have imagined how our world and our lives would be thrown into turmoil by this new virus,” he said, noting WHO has since recorded more than 10 million cases and nearly 500,000 deaths globally.

A total of 240 people in Cobb have died of the virus, and no new deaths have been reported since Sunday.

There have been 853 reported hospitalizations in the county, per the state’s website.

Meanwhile, Kemp extended social distancing rules Monday for businesses and stay-at-home orders for the state’s most vulnerable populations another two weeks. The governor also plans to extend the state’s public health emergency until Aug. 11.

The governor also stressed wearing face masks and other measures recommended by public health officials.

The extended orders announced Monday ban gatherings of more than 50 people unless there is at least 6 feet of distance between them and require restaurants, bars and other businesses to keep their establishments routinely sanitized.

“As we continue our fight against COVID-19 in Georgia, it is vital that Georgians continue to heed public health guidance by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly and practicing social distancing,” Kemp said.

“We have made decisions throughout the pandemic to protect the lives — and livelihoods — of all Georgians by relying on data and the advice of public health officials.”

Of COVID-19 tests completed at Jim Miller Park, 5.74% had positive results as of Monday, according to Cobb-Douglas Public Health.

Memark said her agency is testing at the public health site at a high volume, and increased volume by 50% last week.

Cobb-Douglas Public Health has hired 54 contact tracers and case investigators, and anticipates hiring at least 50 more in the next few weeks, the director said. The contact tracers and case investigators are responding to 75 individual outbreaks in the district, and have worked with over 260 businesses affected by the virus.

Memark said her agency is educating residents about wearing masks and practicing social distancing and ramping up efforts to respond to COVID-19 while continuing to provide their other services.

“We continue to work with our partners in business, congregational networks, school systems, nursing homes and long term care facilities and soon we will work with day cares via Zoom to assist in their planning and business operations amid the pandemic,” Memark said. “We are doing all of these pandemic related responses, while at the same time continuing our safety net operations-WIC, restaurant and pool inspections, HIV testing and outreach, TB testing and treatment, and many more services that we provide.”

Cobb remains fourth among Georgia’s 159 counties in terms of the number of cumulative confirmed cases (4,630), trailing Gwinnett (7,755), Fulton (6,648) and DeKalb (5,469).

Statewide, the number of positive cases was 79,417. The state reported 2,784 Georgians had died, making Georgia’s fatality rate from the virus about 3.5%.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on its website Monday that 2,545,250 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the United States, and 126,369 had died. The national death rate based on these figures is about 4.96%. The CDC says 40 states or other jurisdictions have reported more than 10,000 cases of COVID-19.

For the Georgia DPH’s full report, visit dph.georgia.gov. For the full CDC report, visit www.cdc.gov.

For a Cobb and Douglas Public Health report that includes data on how the coronavirus is affecting different ZIP codes, visit bit.ly/2Nj3xs9.

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— Capitol Beat and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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(2) comments

Johanna Williams

When I go to the Georgia Department of Public Health web site and interpret their statistics and graphs for myself, I do not see nearly the gloomy picture painted here by Ms Ballew. I urge anyone interested to interpret the information for yourself.

Steve Antonoff

The DPH web site is a pure example of how figures don't lie but liars sure do figure. They money with the "last two weeks" to make it look better, but the "last two week" figures don't agree with the daily reports. The DPH, which reports to Kovid Kemp, is trying their best to not outright lie but suppress numbers (again, Kemp's specialty) to make him look good.

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