Coronavirus, News

Coronavirus Updates: Georgia Officials Push Back On ‘Red Zone’ Status

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, third from left, greets President Donald arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Wednesday, July 15. Kemp is pushing back on the latest report from the White House coronavirus task force that lists Georgia as a "red zone" for cases and testing.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, third from left, greets President Donald arrives at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Wednesday, July 15. Kemp is pushing back on the latest report from the White House coronavirus task force that lists Georgia as a "red zone" for cases and testing.
Credit Evan Vucci / AP Photo
'Add to My List' icon 'Added to My List' icon Add to My List In My List

Officials in Georgia are pushing back on the latest report from the White House coronavirus task force. They’ve released their look at the COVID-19 pandemic in the state that conflicts with that of the Trump Administration.

The latest task force report, obtained this week by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lists Georgia as a “red zone” for cases and testing. The state has been assigned the same status by the White House multiple times since mid-July.

Within a day of the story being published, Gov. Brian Kemp released a state-generated report, which a spokesman said, “disputes some of the findings in the federal report.”

For example, the Georgia Department of Public Health agency reports new COVID-19 cases are declining, while the White House task force says they’re plateauing.

Looking at the last few weeks of data on the outbreak, the 7-day average number of newly confirmed cases has declined slightly, though not considerably.

There’s even more distance between Georgia officials and the White House when it comes to how many coronavirus tests return positive results.

State data differs from that of the task force by more than three percentage points. Georgia says test positivity is was down to 9.5% as of Aug. 9. The White House says it sat at 13.5% at that time.

Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said the state report was “recently compiled by [Georgia] DPH’s team to provide an internal update” based on criteria from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health. He said the governor’s office hopes “to provide it publicly moving forward.”

The Trump administration report also includes a series of recommendations for how Georgia can slow the coronavirus spread, like closing bars and restaurants and enacting a statewide mask mandate. Gov. Kemp has declined to take such measures in recent weeks.

YMCA HELPS WITH CHILD CARE

The YMCA of Metro Atlanta says it will give some relief to parents who are not able to stay home and help their kids with online learning during the pandemic.

Starting Aug. 24, the YMCA says it’s opening 17 of its locations across the metro area and will take-in students from kindergarten through sixth grade.

YMCA staff will also help students log onto their school programs and keep them on track with classes.

Officials say students will be placed into small groups and have the chance to get some exercise and recess time.

Financial assistance is also available, and the YMCA can provide before and after-school care at no additional cost.

NEW UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS DOWN

First-time unemployment claims in Georgia dropped to their lowest in five months. The Georgia Department of Labor says it received more than 62,000 new claims last week, 11,600 fewer than the previous week.  

But those are claims from the newly unemployed. Overall, more than one and a half million unemployment claims have been deemed valid by the department since the pandemic began.

The $600 a week in federal unemployment ran out at the end of July, but President Trump signed an executive order that includes $300 a week in federal dollars for Georgians.

State officials are now trying to figure out if they can access those funds without being forced to find an additional $100 in a state match.

Sam Whitehead, Lily Oppenheimer and Susanna Capelouto contributed to this report.