Coronavirus

White House Report Warns Of ‘Aggressive’ Virus Spread As Georgia’s Situation Deteriorates

On Monday, travelers walk through a mostly empty arrival lobby at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As the busy holiday season approaches and more people make plans to travel and gather together, experts are issuing guidance on how to prevent COVID-19 spread.
On Monday, travelers walk through a mostly empty arrival lobby at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As the busy holiday season approaches and more people make plans to travel and gather together, experts are issuing guidance on how to prevent COVID-19 spread.
Credit Charlie Riedel / Associated Press
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The Trump administration says Georgia is doing better than most other states when it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19.

But the latest report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force warns that control of the pandemic has deteriorated across much of the country.

“There is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration,” the report reads.

It says Georgia has seen stability in new cases, an increase in test positivity, and that it appears coronavirus-related hospitalizations are rising in the week leading up to Nov, 15.

WABE’s analysis of state data shows those metrics have been climbing steadily.

The rolling average has climbed 37% in the last two weeks. In that same time, hospitalizations are up 18%.

In its weekly report, the Georgia Department of Public Health says the rolling average of test positivity jumped 20% in the week leading up to Nov. 16.

While these figures are currently lower than they were this summer when the pandemic surged in Georgia, the state’s control of the coronavirus has been slowly slipping with the onset of fall.

“We actually in the Atlanta metro and at Grady have begun to see the beginnings of a new wave,” said John Haupert, head of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

The steady increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, Haupert says, has been happening at a slower rate in Georgia than in most of the country. Many states have seen steep spikes in coronavirus infections in recent weeks.

But Haupert worries that cooler weather and the coming holiday season will fuel the pandemic, especially if people don’t take the advice from public health experts on how to celebrate safely.

“Everyone wants to hug each other. Everyone wants to be together, but you just can’t do that,” he said. “There is the potential, to me, for Thanksgiving and Christmas to create greater spread if people don’t follow the rules.”

It’s a sentiment shared by some of the nation’s top health officials, such as Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On a call with reporters Monday, Giroir highlighted recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on how to prevent disease spread during Thanksgiving gatherings.

“Don’t stay in the kitchen for five hours together making stuffing with 10 people. Do that in your own home. Be outdoors if you can. Have good ventilation, have distancing, be very careful when you’re traveling,” he said.

The CDC says “small household gatherings are an important contributor to the rise in COVID-19 cases,” echoing a warning in the latest White House Task Force report that “ANY indoor interactions outside of their immediate household without masks” pose risks.

The report says current efforts to slow the pandemic must be increased to make sure the nation’s health care system doesn’t get overwhelmed.

It calls on state leaders to “ensure masks at all times in public” and to “increase physical distancing through significant reduction in capacity in public and private indoor spaces.”

For weeks, the Trump administration has issued similar calls for stronger measures in place to slow the pandemic.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s latest coronavirus executive order, signed late last week, doesn’t include any substantive changes to rules put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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