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The Hamilton County Health Department announced 74 new people with COVID-19 Sunday, marking the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began and the fifth time the largest single-day increase happened in May.

The announcement marks a monthlong surge in positive cases in the county as testing expanded, particularly among populations more vulnerable to the virus or in areas that had previously lacked easy access to testing. In the past week, events screened hundreds of people at the Avondale Youth and Family Development Center, East Lake Courts, Emma Wheeler Homes and at La Paz Chattanooga.

During the monthlong surge in confirmed cases, county officials have maintained the rise is occurring at workplaces that never closed or among families. More than 30 cases have been linked to poultry processing plants in Chattanooga. Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger has said multiple times none of the new cases are linked to the reopening of the county. No one from the county has died from the coronavirus in over a month.

(READ MORE: More testing brings COVID-19 case surge in Chattanooga; is it also a sign of danger?)

People of color are disproportionately represented in essential jobs, increasing their risk of contracting the virus. Other socioeconomic factors — such as access to health care, poverty and high-density housing — have put communities of color at increased risk in Chattanooga and across the country.

More specific data on the new cases in Hamilton County, such as where they are geographically or the demographics of those tested positive, were not available Sunday. The health department only updates demographic data between Monday and Friday.

It is also unclear whether the increase means that simply more people with the virus are being detected or if the infection rate in the county is higher than previously believed. There is a lag by the health department in updating the number of completed tests, making it a challenge to calculate the infection rate on any given day.

Contact Wyatt Massey at wmassey@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249. Follow him on Twitter @news4mass.

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