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STATENVILLE – COVID-19 cases in tiny Echols County have almost tripled in 30 hours.

The jump is due not to human error inputting data, but a Monday COVID-19 testing event held in Echols.

South Health District and the Migrant Farmworkers Clinic representatives tested 73 people, mainly migrant workers from farming facilities around the area, said Kristin Patten, district public information officer.

"These people haven't had access to testing but now they do," she said.

After reporting 19 cases in the county at 1 p.m. Tuesday, the state confirmed 34 more cases by 7 p.m. Wednesday evening, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health daily status report.

Echols had 54 cases of COVID-19 as of 1 p.m. Thursday, according to the report.

With a population just more than 4,000, Echols now has the ninth-most cases per 100,000 people in the state, according to the report.

Local farms have been working closely with the clinic as well as the Echols County health department and the district's office to follow proper protocols and work with translators to provide more information and guidance, Patten said.

Most farms in the area have taken up sanitation measures such as requiring staff to wear masks while working and regularly sanitizing worker transportation buses.

If a worker receives a positive test, they must stay home and follow the district guidelines of quarantining for 10 days and be without symptoms before returning to work, Patten said. Workers who were tested were asked to stay home until receiving results, she said.

Echols has the potential for more cases as testing has increased during the past week, Patten said.

“There's a potential for continued increases because we’re going to continue testing,” she said.

In Lowndes County, 12 more cases were confirmed, totaling 228 cases, according to the 1 p.m Thursday report.

The 12-case jump ties for the largest increase in the county since May 9. During the past 48 hours, 21 more cases have been added in Lowndes.

Five Lowndes residents have died since the outbreak of coronavirus, according to the report. The number contradicts the South Health District's continued reporting of only four deaths in Lowndes.

The district has performed 3,450 COVID-19 tests throughout its 10 counties, according to the 10 a.m. Thursday update of the district COVID-19 website

The GDPH publishes the number of hospitalizations of each county's residents. Forty-two Lowndes residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to the report.

The additional information should not be confused with the hospitalization numbers published daily by South Georgia Medical Center. Not all SGMC patients are Lowndes County residents and some patients who have been transferred from other regional hospitals have tested positive for COVID-19, according to past reports.

SGMC was treating 13 confirmed COVID-19 patients, according to its 12:30 p.m. Thursday daily report.

The hospital had discharged 60 COVID-19 patients and had zero patients waiting for testing results, according to the report. 

Fourteen SGMC patients have died from the coronavirus. Again, not all SGMC patients are Lowndes County residents.

For more data on Lowndes and the surrounding counties, The Valdosta Daily Times has created a database to track COVID-19 across the South Health District.

To reach the database, click the link here.

This story was updated at 1:42 p.m. May 21 to reflect 73 people were tested at the event, but not all were Echols residents.

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