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

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 98 new coronavirus cases in Whitfield County in the last 24 hours, the biggest daily spike yet in a county that is dealing with a mounting outbreak.

Five people in Whitfield County have also died in the last five days, according to the state health department.

On July 2, Whitfield County had 1,181 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths. By Tuesday afternoon, the county had added 283 cases — bringing the total to 1,464 — and five more people had died.

Jennifer King, spokesperson for the North Georgia Health District, said 11 of those to die had a chronic illness, one person had no such illness and the medical histories of three others were unknown.

Of the 14 for which the county had demographic information, seven were Hispanic and one was Black. The other six were classified as white and non-Hispanic. The youngest person to die in Whitfield County was a 53-year-old Hispanic man who had a chronic illness. The only person to definitely not have a chronic illness that has died was a 56-year-old Hispanic man.

Dr. Zachary Taylor, director of the North Georgia Health District, said last week that deaths and hospitalizations could soon be on the rise in Whitfield County following a two-week surge in confirmed cases. Taylor's worst fears seem to be coming true.

Hospitalizations in Whitfield County have gone up from 50 to 70 in a short window from June 30 to July 7.

The dramatic rise in cases comes on the heels of Whitfield County Chairwoman Lynn Laughter floating the idea of a face mask mandate, one similar to the Hamilton County mandate issued Monday.

The mandate doesn't have a lot of support with other commissioners, however. Commissioner Barry Robbins said Tuesday that he wouldn't be in support of a mandate but instead would rather follow the lead of Gov. Brian Kemp, who is strongly encouraging people to wear masks in public.

Kemp was in Dalton last week to urge people to wear masks as coronavirus cases steadily increased all over the state.

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