ATLANTA — The number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia topped 3,000 Monday and deaths rose to more than 100.

The numbers come less than a month after the first two cases were reported March 3 in Georgia.

Last week, the U.S. reported more cases than any other country in the world — as of Tuesday, cases totaled more than 160,000 and deaths reached more than 3,000 across the nation.

Like Georgia, states hit hard by coronavirus have seen skyrocketing numbers of cases throughout March — largely a result of increased testing capacities. According to CNN’s COVID-19 case tracker, Georgia ranks 11th in confirmed cases, but seventh in total deaths.

Gov. Brian Kemp, during his hourlong televised town hall March 23, said case data is always going to be behind actual numbers.

"The data that we're seeing today is two weeks old,” he said. “The data that we're going to see two weeks from now is what really happened today, and that's just the nature of this.”


Across the country, state health departments' reported coronavirus numbers vary widely from when and how they are updated. 

New York, New Jersey and Georgia reported their first confirmed cases of coronavirus just days apart — Kemp announcing two individuals in Fulton County had tested positive March 3.

By March 23, New Jersey hit nearly 3,000 cases, according to the state health department. Since, New Jersey cases have risen to 16,686 positive cases.

New York State Department of Health data outlines an even more rapid spread through the dense population of New York City and the remaining parts of the state. Since its first case was recorded March 1, the state has had 66,497 coronavirus cases and 1,218 deaths as of Tuesday.

Both California and Washington states saw their first cases at the end of January and steadily reached the numbers they are reporting today. As of March 28, Washington reported 4,896 cases and 195 deaths; as of March 30, California reported 7,398 cases and 146 deaths, according to their respective state health departments.

Georgia has been criticized for lagging behind other states in testing — local health district officials cite a lack of specimen collection kits and backlog in private testing labs.

The Peach State is not alone; states across the country face similar challenges, which means testing supplies will continue to be prioritized for the most vulnerable populations — the elder and those possibly exposed to COVID-19 — and first responders and health care workers.

State testing capacities vary widely based on access to test kits and number of labs conducting tests.

As of noon Tuesday, Georgia had conducted a total of 16,181 tests between both commercial labs and the State Public Health Lab.

“We are earlier in our epidemic than New York is,” said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Department of Public Health commissioner. “So we have a chance to mitigate this in a way that perhaps they didn’t.”

Selective testing for high-risk individuals, exposure contact tracing, isolation of high-risk populations and community interventions where there isn’t yet widespread transmission are part of Georgia’s “best bet,” she said.

In data from March 26, Georgia ranked in the 10 states with the lowest testing per capita, according to the New York Times.

On Tuesday, Kemp announced a "laboratory surge capacity plan" to increase the state's testing capacity by more than 3,000 samples per day by utilizing University System of Georgia, Georgia Public Health Laboratory and Emory University lab resources.

"We hope this surge capacity plan will allow federal and state public health officials to gain a more complete picture of COVID-19's impact on Georgia and better inform our collective decisions going forward," Kemp said in a statement. "We expect this plan will lead to greater testing capacity and more insight into the number of positive cases in our state."

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