COVID Is "Expanding" in This State, Leaked White House Document Warns

The White House Coronavirus Task Force says the state is not doing enough to contain coronavirus.

Amid the summer-long COVID surge across the country, there have been several encouraging signs of improvement. While the coronavirus pandemic is far from being over, many states appear to be moving in the right direction and containing their outbreaks. But one state in particular still has health experts and researchers concerned—and the federal government is in agreement: According to a leaked document from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the COVID outbreak in Georgia is out of control.

Georgia is experiencing "widespread and expanding community viral spread," says the Aug. 9 document, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and published on Aug. 13. The Coronavirus Task Force "strongly recommends" that the state adopt stricter policies, like the mandatory use of face masks, because Georgia's "current mitigation efforts are not having a sufficient impact."

The report suggested other measures Georgia could take in order to slow the spread of the virus: limiting indoor dining, decreasing the number of people allowed at social gatherings, closing bars and clubs, and increasing testing and contact tracing.

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On Aug. 15, Gov. Brian Kemp issued a new COVID executive order that continued the ban on large gatherings and extended shelter-in-place orders for high-risk individuals. However, the order is far less strict than the recommendations of the White House. In fact, Kemp said in a statement that it "protects Georgia businesses from government overreach by restricting the application and enforcement of local masking requirements to public property. While I support local control, it must be properly balanced with property rights and personal freedoms."

Last week, Kemp withdrew his lawsuit against the city of Atlanta over their mask mandate and COVID restrictions. But his recent executive order maintains that mask mandates cannot fine violators more than $50, and that those not wearing masks need to be warned about the health risks before being issued any citation. Beyond that, the order says mask mandates cannot be imposed on businesses, polling places, or private property.

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According to the Harvard Global Health Institute (HGHI), Georgia currently has the highest rate of daily new cases in the country: 29.9 COVID cases per 100,000 people. Along with Florida, it's the only state that now meets the threshold for states that should consider shutting down. As of Aug. 17, The New York Times reports 220,165 coronavirus cases in Georgia, resulting in 4,600 deaths.

Carlos del Rio, MD, executive associate dean at Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Kemp would be wise to consider implementing the guidelines laid out by the White House Coronavirus Task Force. "We're not doing anything and we're hoping magically numbers are going to go down," he said. "Hope is not a strategy." And for another state that may need to take more drastic action, This State Is on the Verge of Going Back Into Lockdown, Governor Warns.

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