ATLANTA — Georgia added close to 3,500 confirmed coronavirus cases to its total count on Thursday, the largest single-day increase the state has experienced, as infection rates rise across the country.
The state has seen a sharp increase in confirmed cases as well as people hospitalized in recent weeks, after a short period of decline that followed a since-lifted stay-at-home order from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
"We are in exponential growth with rapidly rising infections," Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University, tweeted Thursday. "I am very concerned of our trajectory as we head into the 4th of July weekend," del Rio said as he urged people to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
Georgia isn't alone in seeing rising numbers. One-day confirmed coronavirus cases for the country rose to an all-time high of 50,000 on Thursday and cases are rising in 40 out of 50 states.
Some states, such as Florida, Arizona, Texas and California, have paused reopening plans or implemented additional restrictions. But Kemp has so far declined to do so, saying the restrictions already in place are enough. He has embarked on a statewide tour to encourage people to wear masks but says he won't mandate it.
"We shouldn't need a mask mandate for people to do the right thing," Kemp said Wednesday before departing.
At a tour stop at the Augusta University Medical Center on Thursday, Kemp was joined by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who urged everyone to wear masks over the holiday weekend.
"Fourth of July is all about freedom. And I've heard people say that this is an imposition on my freedom is an impediment to my right to choose. Again I reject that argument," Adams said, according to WRDW-TV. "The more of us who wear the mask, the more we will be able to open safely and stay open, and the more choices, the more freedom, the more opportunities we will have."
Nearly 88,000 confirmed cases of the virus have been recorded by the Georgia Department of Public Health, though experts say that figure likely only accounts for a fraction of those actually infected. At least 2,849 people have died in Georgia.
There were 1,649 people hospitalized with the virus in Georgia on Thursday, up from 1,135 a week earlier.
Georgia has been aggressive in allowing businesses to reopen amid the pandemic, with Kemp giving the green light to places including tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons and bowling alleys in late April. Restaurants, retail stores, bars, concert venues and amusement parks have also reopened with restrictions.
For many, the coronavirus causes moderate symptoms. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and death.
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.