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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.

The state health department in Georgia is reporting 668 COVID-19 cases in Whitfield County, more than double what the county had on May 29.

The novel coronavirus is affecting the Hispanic population disproportionately. While Hispanics make up about 34% of the population in the county, about 71% of the cases are attributed to the Hispanic population.

During the first full week of May, Georgia started offering free COVID-19 tests for people without symptoms for the first time in a statewide effort to increase testing.

From May 4 to May 18, Whitfield County saw an increase of 59 positive coronavirus cases, up from 123 to 182. That's about four new cases a day.

From May 18 to May 27, cases surged from 182 to 308, or an average of 14 new cases a day.

In an even shorter window, cases rose from 193 to 270 in four days, from May 19 to May 23. That's an average of 19 new cases a day.

From May 28 to June 16, cases in Whitfield County have more than doubled from 315 to 637.

Since the beginning of June, Whitfield County is averaging 17 new cases per day.

Cases have dramatically increased since June 8 when the county reported two new deaths.

On June 9, the state reported there were 509 COVID-19 cases in Whitfield County. Since then, the county has been averaging about 20 new cases a day. As of Wednesday afternoon, 10 people in the county had died due to the coronavirus, three of whom were Hispanic.

Jennifer King, spokesperson with the North Georgia Health District, said her team reported the rise in numbers is not tied to any specific event or location "but is due to continued general transmission in the community and increased testing."

The most recent report from Wednesday morning showed the county had 39 hospitalizations.

The hospitalization rate has held fairly steady, King said. On June 1, the total number of cases was 378 with 27 hospitalizations (7%), and a week ago on June 10, there was a total of 508 cases with 33 hospitalizations (6%). On Wednesday the rate was right around 6% as well, King said.

As a county, Whitfield has largely avoided any major outbreaks at any long-term care facilities, whereas other counties in the area are struggling significantly with nursing home outbreaks.

Georgia was one of the first states in the country to reopen certain businesses and was known to have the most aggressive plan to do so.

On April 24, hair salons, spas, gyms, barbershops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys were among the businesses that reopened to the public. Three days later, movie theaters and restaurants were able to open with capacity restrictions.

Georgia has drastically increased testing since reopening. Between April 20 and May 7, Georgia more than doubled the number of coronavirus tests it conducted, from 84,328 to more than 217,000. It has since conducted a total of 644,723 tests.

Statewide, cases are on the upswing. Georgia hit the 60,000-case mark on Wednesday, while the seven-day moving average is slightly up. Across the state, 2,575 people had died from the virus.

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

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