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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / The Whitfield County Health Department is seen on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 in Dalton, Ga.

Nearly 50 people at a nursing home in Dalton have tested positive for the new coronavirus, and seven residents have died in the latest long-term care facility outbreak in Northwest Georgia.

The state's health department says that 46 residents at the Ridgewood Manor Health and Rehab and 21 staff members have tested positive for COVID-19.

The state also reported seven residents have died due to complications from the virus.

Of the 76 people at the facility, 35 residents have recovered and 101 people have been tested.

Hamilton Health Care System owns and operates Ridgewood Manor and several other long-term care facilities in Dalton. Tyler Kendall, vice president of post-acute care services, said in a statement that Hamilton's long-term care facilities are staying "very aggressive with daily screening of associates for COVID-19-like symptoms."

"Our frail and vulnerable senior population, in Georgia and across the United States, continues to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19," Kendall said in the statement. "Our associates caring for these residents become deeply connected, as they feel like family to us, [so] protecting our residents' health and safety is our top priority."

Across the county line, 80 residents at PruittHealth in Fort Oglethorpe have tested positive for COVID-19, and 10 people have died. Of the 80, 69 have recovered.

The most up to date numbers from the state show 1,867 people have died in nursing homes since the pandemic started, which accounts for more than 44% of the state's total deaths.

While Georgia managed to slow the spread of the coronavirus in late May and early June, nursing homes and other facilities were hit hard. In tight quarters with a vulnerable population, older people with pre-existing and chronic conditions got sick and died.

In June, the state's health department announced 100% of nursing home residents in facilities with 25 or more beds had been tested for COVID-19. In all other long-term care facilities aside from nursing homes, 77% of residents and 57% of employees had been tested statewide.

Whitfield County has been considered one of the state's coronavirus hot spots for more than a month. The county has had 3,549 cases since March. Over 770 have come in the past two weeks.

As of Monday afternoon, 32 people in the county have died and 178 people have been hospitalized.

The county has seen its seven-day moving average fall since Aug. 1, when it reached an all-time high of 77.3 new cases per day. That number was 43.1 on Monday.

Contact Patrick Filbin at pfilbin@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickFilbin.

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