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LAKELAND – An increase in COVID-19 cases in Lanier County marks the latest virus surge in South Georgia.

In 24 hours, coronavirus cases in Lanier nearly tripled from Friday to Saturday. That single-day stretch saw cases jump from 37 to 96, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The spike came from migrant farmworkers in Lanier County getting tested for the coronavirus, said Kristin Patten, South Health District public information officer.

It is unknown whether the workers came from a single farm or multiple ones in Lanier County, Patten said.

Lanier went from well below the number of cases per 100,00 people in the state on Friday (357.8) to nearly twice the state’s rate by Saturday (928.4), according to The Valdosta Daily Times COVID-19 database.

Lanier, with a population of more than 10,000 residents, is not the first South Georgia county to experience a high case rate of migrant farmworkers. Two weeks ago, Echols County saw cases skyrocket after a testing event for migrant farmworkers revealed a high rate of positive cases.

Echols remains the county with highest COVID-19 case rate per 100,000 by a wide margin – 4,031 compared to 2,813, the second-most per capita in Southwest Georgia's Randolph County, according to the GDPH report.

As more migrant farmworkers are tested, the number of positive cases in South Georgia could increase.

“It’s reasonable to believe that as more get tested, more would come back positive,” Patten said.

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