White House warns of ‘widespread and expanding’ COVID-19 spread in Georgia

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Georgia must also step up testing and contact tracing statewide, according to the report, and infection testing and control measures must be expanded in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained the recommendations of the White House Coronavirus Task Force for Georgia, dated August 9, from a source.

Dr Melanie Thompson, principal investigator with the Atlanta AIDS Research Consortium, said it was frustrating that the report only came to light because of a leak.

“This is public health data and it should be available to the public,” she said.

Most states require masks

Although Kemp encouraged Georgians to wear masks, Georgia is one of 16 states without any form of statewide mask mandate. Kemp said he believed a statewide requirement was unnecessary and unenforceable.

Kemp’s emergency orders explicitly prohibit cities from promulgating mask warrants or enacting measures more stringent or less restrictive than his.

Kemp withdrew this lawsuit challenging the city of Atlanta’s mask warrant and trade restrictions on Thursday, but officials say he plans a new ordinance by Saturday that would specify that local governments cannot order businesses deprived of requiring masks.

Dr Carlos del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System, said the White House recommendations are not political and are based on solid science.

Del Rio is among a group of more than 2,000 medical professionals who have urged Kemp in a pair of open letters to adopt a mask mandate and cut back on bar, gym and nightclub operations and allow local governments to institute severe restrictions if necessary.

“We are not doing anything and we hope the numbers will magically drop,” he said of Georgia’s response to the coronavirus. “Hope is not a strategy.”

Governor Brian Kemp (left) watches as U.S. Vice Admiral General Jerome M. Adams prepares to self-administer a COVID-19 test during a press conference at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic located in a Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta Paid Airport Parking Lot at College Park, Monday August 10, 2020 (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Governor Brian Kemp (left) watches as U.S. Vice Admiral General Jerome M. Adams prepares to self-administer a COVID-19 test during a press conference at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing clinic located in a Hartsfield-Jackson International Atlanta Paid Airport Parking Lot at College Park, Monday August 10, 2020 (ALYSSA POINTER / [email protected])

Credit: [email protected]

Credit: [email protected]

The AJC asked Kemp’s office why the governor refused to follow the task force’s recommendations to shut down businesses such as bars and nightclubs that are at high risk of spread.

Kemp spokesperson Cody Hall did not respond directly to questions.

“Gov. Kemp continues to rely on the data, science and public health advice of Dr (Kathleen) Toomey and her team in our state’s ongoing battle against COVID-19, ”Hall said, referring to the state public health commissioner. “As the governor has said repeatedly, this fight is about protecting the lives – and livelihoods – of all Georgians.”

Hall said the state was expanding its testing resources, including a new partner lab based in North Carolina and the recently opened temporary testing “mega-site” at the Atlanta airport. Georgia has reported 25,000 or more new tests in eight of the past nine days, Hall said.

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In addition to federal supplies, the state has partnered with long-term care facilities to boost testing and Hall highlighted other measures the state has taken to control infections.

But COVID Exit Strategy, a non-profit, non-partisan public health initiative, estimates that Georgia is only testing about a quarter of the amount it needs per day to reduce the virus.

Quick review

Kemp’s critics reacted to the White House report with dismay and anger.

State Representative William Boddie, one of the leading House Democrats, asked why the governor refuses to act more decisively.

“He has to adhere to science. He says he’s looking at data, but I’m asking what that data tells him, “Boddie said. “Georgia is at the forefront of COVID-19 cases in the country. It doesn’t make sense to me. We need to impose masks and a uniform way of attacking the coronavirus. And it has to start with him.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is among several mayors who, frustrated with Kemp’s removal of restrictions, have challenged his order and imposed their own limits.

In a statement, Bottoms said that “science and data clearly show Georgia remains on a dangerous course.”

“We will never get to the other side of this pandemic if we ignore the warnings of our healthcare professionals and wear masks, practice social distancing and stop behaving like COVID-19 is suddenly gone. », She declared.

The disastrous reopening of some school districts has also filtered down the campaign trail.

“We are not doing anything and we hope the numbers will magically drop. Hope is not a strategy. “

– Dr Carlos del Rio, Executive Associate Dean at Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System

State Representative Beth Moore has gathered more than 650 tips from students, parents and teachers on issues in schools since the resumption of in-person learning in some districts, and she is among the most critical critics. most virulent of Kemp’s coronavirus policy.

“Governor Kemp is lining up with anti-science extremists who believe masks don’t help, the virus is a hoax and we should all just bury our heads in the sand and pray the virus is gone,” he said. said Moore, a Peachtree Corners. Democrat. “The fact that a school whistleblower effort is even necessary to ensure the protection of students, faculty and their families shows how poorly Kemp has handled the coronavirus pandemic in Georgia.”

Some Republicans say more needs to be done. State Representative Chuck Efstration R-Dacula said Thursday he would introduce legislation next year that would speed up the availability of same-day coronavirus test results and create new state certification for businesses that comply with state health safety guidelines.

‘See the consequences’

Georgia was one of the last states to order shelter-in-place residents in April, and one of the more aggressive states to reopen its economy. Georgia reported a week-over-week increase in cases in nine out of ten weeks from early May to mid-July, peaking at 25,471 cases the week of July 12.

In the next three full weeks, Georgia reported a slight drop in weekly cases, but the seven-day moving average remains more than five times the level reported in early June.

The State Department of Public Health (DPH) on Thursday reported 2,515 new net cases of the virus and 82 new confirmed net deaths.

The White House report examined data from Aug. 1 to Aug. 7 and followed one dated July 26 that named Georgia as one of 21 “red zone” states. The new assessment found that Georgia’s case rate was declining slightly, but the growth of new cases and the number of positive tests for the virus still put Georgia in the red zone.

Georgia’s rate of spread has remained near double the national average, the task force said.

Deaths, meanwhile, have increased.

On Tuesday, DPH reported a record 122 new net confirmed deaths, followed by the second-highest daily total on Wednesday of 105. To date, 4,538 deaths in Georgia have been attributed to COVID-19.

Georgia also set weekly records for reported deaths in each of the past three weeks.

“I hate to say it, but we are not doing enough in Georgia and we are seeing the consequences,” del Rio said.

Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 109 are in the task force’s red zone for transmission and positivity testing, including Clayton among Atlanta’s top 10 counties. Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett and Rockdale are in the yellow zone.

The White House report also reveals information previously undisclosed by DPH, including the positivity of the tests by county during the week of August 1 to August 7. were over 20%.



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