Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments and clarification from the Fulton County Board of Health and the Georgia Department of Public Health.
According to the latest epidemiology report from the Fulton County Board of Health, which was released May 22, the city of Alpharetta barely passed the 100 cases mark but increased from the previous update's total of 94 cases as of May 18, totaling 101 cases of COVID-19 as of May 22. Meanwhile, the city of Milton has seen 63 cases of COVID-19 as of May 22, the epidemiology report shows—a decrease from the May 18 total of 64 cases.
Neighboring Fulton County cities of Roswell, Sandy Springs and Johns Creek have seen 217 cases, 334 cases and 107 cases, respectively, as of May 22. The cities of Atlanta and South Fulton have seen the most cases of the virus of the 14 cities in Fulton County, with 1,816 cases in Atlanta and 448 cases in South Fulton, according to the epidemiology report. Fulton County has seen 4,102 cases of COVID-19 as of 9 a.m. May 26, according to the GDPH's COVID-19 daily status report.
However, the total case counts in the county's report differs from the state's COVID-19 daily status report by almost 200 cases. As of 9 a.m. May 22, the Georgia Department of Public Health's report shows Fulton County had seen 3,893 cases of the virus, but the epidemiology report from Fulton County Board of Health shows 4,060 cases of the virus countywide as of May 22.
According to Udodirim Onwubiko, an epidemiologist for the Fulton County Board of Health, there are several reasons for differences in case counts between the two entities, even though the underlying data is being pulled from the same database.
"Differences in the time of day data is pulled by each team, data de-duplication process applied and data cleaning processes used to address missing location variables all contribute to the final case counts reported for the jurisdiction," Onwubiko said in an email May 26. "We are actively working with the state's data team to address these differences and are looking forward to continuing our tradition of providing up-to-date reports on COVID-19 diagnoses in the county."
Nancy Nydam, a communications representative for the GDPH, said in an email May 26 that when the county of residence is left off of COVID-19 reports, GDPH epidemiologists are tasked with recovering that information from the reporting facility or through case interviews. Until that information can be completed, the state department documents these cases as "unknown" counties of residence, which is included on the COVID-19 daily status report; however, Fulton County was including unknowns in county totals, she said.
"DPH epidemiologists have spoken with Fulton County and going forward asked them to document cases the same way DPH does for consistency statewide," Nydam said in the email. "People can be tested at any site, anywhere in the state—it does not have to be in the county where they live. We do, however, ask for county of residence to provide a clearer picture of where infections are."
As of 9 a.m. May 26, Georgia has now seen 43,586 cases of COVID-19, according to the GDPH's daily status report—a 5.98% increase in case counts since 9 a.m. on Friday, May 22. Additionally, the state has seen 1,696 ICU admissions, 7,511 hospitalizations and 1,853 deaths attributed to the virus, the GDPH's data indicates.
The growth in the number of COVID-19 tests administered statewide outpaced the increase in case counts, increasing by 20.53% since 9 a.m. May 22 to total 514,945 tests as of 9 a.m. May 26. However, the number of total tests includes both viral tests, which are used to determine if a person is currently infected with COVID-19, and serology tests, which are antibody tests that can indicate if a person has contracted COVID-19 in the past.
The department is still working to provide specific counts of each test, but this information has not yet been provided.
Alpharetta, Milton see fewer COVID-19 cases compared to other North Fulton cities
Alpharetta and Milton have both seen fewer than 150 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the May 22 epidemiology report from the Fulton County Board of Health. (Community Impact staff)