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‘Stop looking for the second wave.’ CDC says we haven’t finished the first one.

DPH attributes spikes in COVID-19 cases to testing. We filed a series of open records requests to find out if that's true.

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday it believes about 20 million Americans have been infected with COVID-19. 

While that number may sound like a lot, it’s only about six percent of the population, far from the number needed for what’s been called - herd immunity. 

As the country deals with a new record high in daily COVID-19 cases, Georgia’s numbers also show no sign of slowing down. On Thursday, the Department of Public Health reported 1,714 new cases.

The numbers for the cases are shown in the chart below. 

Credit: GA DPH

Every time we highlight a spike in numbers, public health departments attribute it to an increase in testing. 11Alive filed a series of open records requests to better tell how the two numbers relate.

The data looks at the change in positive cases to the total number of tests between June 1 and June 23. At the beginning of the month, Fulton County had the most cases in the state, with 4,547.

But as the month continued, Gwinnett took the lead with 6,636 total cases. It also had the biggest jump in new cases, 2,824. 

Those positive cases can come from several sources. Hospitals, pharmacies and doctor’s offices. But one of the most common are the public health department testing sites which started to open in mid-April. If testing leads to the detection of new cases, Gwinnett should have the highest number of tests performed. But it didn’t.

11Alive's investigate team, The Reveal, is only able to access data as it is reported to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Some counties may report that data differently, including tests performed by outside vendors as well as tests performed directly by the county public health district. And DPH points out anyone can show up at one of these testing sites. That means a person tested in Fulton may actually live in Clayton county.

But the numbers still offer context. In June, Fulton County’s health department reports the most number of COVID-19 tests performed, 20,594. According to the state, it detected 1,338 new cases in the same time period.

Gwinnett on the other hand performed less than half that number of tests, 8,066, and detected double the number of COVID19 cases, 2,824.

The graph below compares new COVID-19 cases to the tests run in June for Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb, and Hall counties. 

Credit: GA DPH

When asked about it, a county spokesperson for the Gwinnett, Newton & Rockdale County Health Department (GNR), stressed there is no outbreak and that COVID-19 was being found throughout the county.

But Chad Wasdin did acknowledge the importance of their Lilburn testing site, which according our analysis, has accounted for more than half of the positive cases in the past few weeks in the county.

“We added the test site in Lilburn because the zip code data of cases told us we needed to be there. Testing in this area has allowed us to find more cases, which will help us reduce the spread by focusing on educating and pushing community mitigation strategies that we know work.”

Wasdin said regardless of where you live, it’s important for people to understand transmission is still occurring. GNR, as is all other health departments, continues to ask people to practice social distancing and wear masks when in public or around large groups.

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