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Georgia leads nation in new COVID-19 cases as governor refuses mask mandate

Gov. Brian P. Kemp (Photo: Office of the Governor; www.gov.georgia.gov)

The state of Georgia now has the dubious title of leading the nation in new COVID-19 cases. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia reported the highest number of new cases in the week ending Friday, Aug. 14, 2020.

Georgia reported 216 cases per 100,000 people, a rate that is about double the national average.

Gov. Brian Kemp continues to take heat for his approach to fighting the spread of COVID-19. Kemp was the first state to allow non-essential businesses to reopen following national shelter-in-place recommendations in the spring. Nightclubs and bars in Georgia are often crowded where social distancing measures are not being enforced.

Kemp gained headlines for suing Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in July after she issued a mask ordinance for the city of Atlanta. Kemp would eventually drop the lawsuit against Bottoms, but he has yet to issue a statewide mask mandate. Instead, he has allowed local governments to issue mask mandates on public properties.

Georgia’s poor planning when it comes to COVID-19 led to the White House Coronavirus Task Force marking the state as a red zone in terms of new cases.

“Georgia’s small gains are fragile and statewide progress will require continued, expanded, and stronger mitigation efforts, including in all open schools,” the White House’s statement said.

The White House also recommended that Georgia close bars, gyms and restrict indoor dining at restaurants to one-quarter capacity in the highest risk counties. It also recommended that social gatherings be limited to 50 people and 10 or fewer in households.

Georgia is also behind in terms of COVID-19 testing. Although the state has conducted about 27,000 tests per day, it is still far behind the number needed to fully help identify new cases and stop the potential spread.

On Tuesday, Aug. 18, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) reported 2,816 new cases and 67 new deaths. Overall, Georgia has reported over 241,000 cases of COVID-19 and nearly 4,800 deaths.