COVID count climbs locally

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Murray County, as of Monday afternoon, has officially registered 470 cases of COVID-19, with two deaths, according to  the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Murray County has a population of 40,261. Twenty-nine county residents have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Neighboring Whitfield County (population 104,672) has confirmed 2,726 cases with 23 deaths and 125 hospitalizations.

Neighboring Gilmer County (population 31,417) has confirmed 437 cases with three deaths and 43 hospitalizations.

The Murray County Health Department is performing free COVID-19 tests on Thursdays at the Recreation Center, according to Jennifer King, public relations director for the North Georgia Health District.

King said health workers are administering the “nasal swab test,” which takes only a few minutes. Results, which are collected and shipped to a lab, are  usually available within 3-5 days.

Anyone who thinks they need to be tested should call 888-881-1474 to set up an appointment.

King said some Murray County residents may be going to Dalton, Ellijay or to Cherokee County. Those locations offer testing on multiple days.

In Dalton, free drive-up testing at the Gaston Community Center on Saturdays has been busy.

Last Thursday, the Murray County Health Department tested more than 90 people, King said. If a person tests positive, they are contacted by health officials who attempt to identify anyone that person may have come into sustained (15 minutes or more) contact with.

“People can be carrying the virus and not even know it,” said King. “They might spread it before they start to see symptoms or they might not have the symptoms at all.

King said an additional day for testing in Murray County might be added soon.

“We want to expand our capabilities,” King said. “We are definitely taking on larger numbers for testing. We want to expand our hours.”

County Commissioner Greg Hogan said the pandemic might hurt Murray long term.

“I have been told they may not send Census workers to Murray or Whitfield counties because of COVID,” said Hogan. “If they don’t go door-to-door here, that will lower our count and that will hurt the county.”

Many state and federal programs determine local funding based on Census information.

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