A look at major coronavirus developments over the past week

Celeste Martin works behind a plastic partition during her language arts class at Marietta Middle School on Thursday afternoon. Even though there are only five students in the room during class, they all wear masks and sit behind plastic partitions. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Celeste Martin works behind a plastic partition during her language arts class at Marietta Middle School on Thursday afternoon. Even though there are only five students in the room during class, they all wear masks and sit behind plastic partitions. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Georgia is back in the coronavirus red zone — the category for states with the most severe spread of the virus.

The seven-day rolling average of new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia has climbed about 45% since bottoming out Oct. 2, and the number of hospitalizations has started to climb after weeks of decreasing, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of state data shows.

Citing the increase in cases, President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force moved the state back into the red zone for the first time since mid-September. The task force report warned of asymptomatic spread, particularly at social gatherings, as cool weather pushes people indoors. and friends and families plan holiday events.

Forty-two states are now in the COVID-19 red zone as the virus surges to new daily case highs and hospitalizations and deaths rise across the nation.

In this file photo, Cathy Webb, LPN, secures a COVID-19 test outside Glynn County Health Department in Brunswick, Glynn County. Ryon Horne/RHORNE@AJC.COM
In this file photo, Cathy Webb, LPN, secures a COVID-19 test outside Glynn County Health Department in Brunswick, Glynn County. Ryon Horne/RHORNE@AJC.COM

Credit: rhorne@ajc.com

Credit: rhorne@ajc.com

Georgia ranked 40th in the U.S. for new cases per 100,000 people and 30th for test positivity.

The current rate of spread in the state is not as severe as the outbreaks seen in border states and in the Upper Midwest and Northwest. But public health experts fear Georgia might not be far behind.

Meanwhile, the executive associate dean of Emory School of Medicine, Dr. Carlos del Rio, called for a statewide mask mandate and condemned a dangerous “leadership vacuum” as the pandemic surges. He called for Centers for Disease Control experts to fill the gap, and for government and community leaders to “speak with one voice.”

“We are in a very difficult point in the pandemic in our country,” said del Rio, who would like to see mask mandates across the country. “There’s nobody at any high level really talking about this, providing guidance, saying what to do. That leadership vacuum is really, simply allowing the pandemic to progress without anybody taking charge.”

Here’s a look at other major developments over the past week.

Layoffs on the decline

Though the coronavirus pandemic still casts a long shadow over the economy, Atlanta-based Corps Team and other local staffing firms, which specialize in matching job candidates and jobs, say many industries are rebounding.

In addition, layoffs appear to be leveling off.

New jobless claims in Georgia dropped for the fourth consecutive week, the Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday.

“Companies are playing catch-up,” said Kim Wallace, executive vice president with Hire Dynamics, a Duluth-based staffing company. “In the last four weeks, we’re really seeing more people getting back to work.”

There has been strong hiring in e-commerce, logistics, warehousing and delivery services, as well as in technology.

Atlanta-based Antonline, which sells gaming and computer tech equipment, announced that it is adding about 100 jobs for web developers, assistant buyers, warehouse managers and others.

In this file photo, a medical professional collects a nasal swab from a potential COVID-19 patient at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Good News Clinic in Gainesville. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
In this file photo, a medical professional collects a nasal swab from a potential COVID-19 patient at a drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Good News Clinic in Gainesville. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Any rebound is vulnerable so long as the coronavirus is not contained, said Bill Adams, senior economist at PNC Financial Services. With the latest surge in the number of cases, he said, “This is a particularly conflicted moment for the economic recovery.”

In some sectors, like construction and motor vehicles manufacturing, spending is down and hiring is flat.

But the hardest hit is the hospitality industry. Georgia has about 75,000 fewer hospitality jobs now than in February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In this file photo, Georgia Tech's defensive back Tobias Oliver (8) and Georgia Tech's linebacker Quez Jackson (44) react after Georgia Tech's defensive lineman Jordan Domineck (not pictured) recovered a fumble during the second half of an Georgia Tech-Louisville game. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
In this file photo, Georgia Tech's defensive back Tobias Oliver (8) and Georgia Tech's linebacker Quez Jackson (44) react after Georgia Tech's defensive lineman Jordan Domineck (not pictured) recovered a fumble during the second half of an Georgia Tech-Louisville game. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Georgia Tech and UGA games postponed

Georgia Tech and UGA football games scheduled for Saturday were postponed because of coronavirus infections.

The Georgia Tech game against Pitt was scheduled to take place at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Georgia-Missouri football game was scheduled to be played in Columbia, Mo.

According to a news release from the ACC, the rescheduling of the Georgia Tech-Pitt game followed “positive tests, subsequent quarantining, and contact tracing within the Georgia Tech and Pitt football teams. The teams are adhering to the minimum outlined protocols within ACC Medical Advisory Group report.”

The Yellow Jackets team paused athletic activities but expects to be able to play its next scheduled game, at Miami, on Nov. 21. Pitt has paused all team activities due to COVID-related protocols.

Meanwhile, the postponement of the UGA game was a result of a COVID-19 infection and subsequent quarantine requirements within the Missouri Tigers' program. The game may have to be played Dec. 19, the day of the SEC Championship game, as Missouri already has a make-up game scheduled Dec. 12.

Staff writers J. Scott Trubey, Ariel Hart, Ken Sugiura, Michael E. Kanell and Chip Towers contributed to this article.

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