Another important change in the order, which expires July 31, is the reduction of transportation restrictions for child care centers. Almost all of the other restrictions that were in place earlier this month remain intact.
“We continue to monitor the data and the numbers,” Kemp said earlier this week. “We have to learn to deal with it and we encourage people to wear masks and follow the advice we have.”
Hours before Kemp took action, his Republican counterpart in Alabama, Governor Kay Ivey, announced a statewide mask requirement that will take effect on Thursday. Meanwhile, Walmart and Sam’s Club have said they will require buyers to start wearing masks on Monday.
Also on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Twitter that New York will send 7,500 COVID-19 test kits, 30,000 personal protective equipment and 1,250 gallons of hand sanitizer to Atlanta on Friday. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who asked the state for help in the middle of a growing feud with Kemp earlier this week, said she was thankful.
“My mom often says, ‘A friend in need is really a friend,'” she tweeted.
ExplorerAJC completes coverage of the coronavirus epidemic and its impact in Atlanta and Georgia.
Georgia reported 3,871 new illnesses on Wednesday, the second highest daily count to date and 37 deaths. To date, 127,834 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Georgia, more than double the number reported in mid-June, and 3,091 have died in Peach State.
The rate of new positive tests for the disease is skyrocketing, an indication that experts say suggests that the spread of the disease – not the increase in tests – is the culprit. During the week of May 24, state public health officials reported that the rate of positive tests was approximately 6% over a seven-day period. Last week, the positivity rate was over 13%, according to an analysis from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution of state data.
Although the new wave of COVID-19 patients tends to be younger and less sick, they quickly fill hospital beds. Hospitalizations surpassed the Georgia summit in April after the July 4 weekend. The shares of open intensive care beds in the regions surrounding Athens, Dublin, Macon, Marietta, Savannah and Tifton dropped by a single digit. Only one remained in Dublin, according to the latest figures available.
Disease experts at Georgia Tech and elsewhere have warned that Georgia is running out of time to avoid the outbreaks that have overwhelmed hospitals in Florida, Arizona and other states that have eased the restrictions. This month more than 1,400 health workers signed an open letter calling on Kemp to close bars and restaurants, ban indoor gatherings of more than 25 people, impose masks and release local governments to institute their own rules to stop the spread of the disease.
“It is not too late to get back to basics: mandatory masks, more restrictions on social isolation, free mayors to manage their local epidemics and considerably expand testing and contact tracing”, Dr Melanie Thompson , principal investigator of the Atlanta AIDS Research Consortium, said last week. “These are basics, but we have not yet managed to master them.”
Dr. Harry J. Heiman, associate clinical professor at the Georgia State University School of Public Health, said, “In the absence of aggressive action, it will only get worse. “
AJC author Greg Bluestein contributed to this article.