A look at major coronavirus developments over the past week

Georgia and 47 other states are in the red zone for new COVID-19 cases, meaning they exceed 100 new diagnoses for every 100,000 residents, according to the most recent White House task force report.

The report warned of asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread, particularly in social gatherings.

Georgia fared better in the report than all but three states in terms of the rate of new cases, but the trendlines are worrisome. The seven-day rolling average of new confirmed cases in Georgia has more than doubled since Oct. 2 and the rolling average of people currently hospitalized in the state is up by more than one-third since Oct. 12.

To date, close to 400,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Georgia, and the number of deaths has surpassed 8,500.

Here’s a look at major developments related to the coronavirus.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

CDC: Don’t travel for Thanksgiving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged Americans to avoid travel over Thanksgiving and to keep holiday gatherings contained within their households because of the heightened risk of the coronavirus.

The new guidance came as the virus rages across most of the country, and as cases and hospitalizations in Georgia have started to climb.

Within hours of the new CDC guidance, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) issued a similar advisory.

“The surge of COVID-19 infections in Georgia and across the country mean we must rethink our idea of a traditional Thanksgiving this year,” DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said in a news release. “Each family must assess the risk of exposure to COVID-19, especially among elderly or medically fragile individuals, as they weigh the decision to host or attend a holiday gathering. Everyone needs to follow the guidance of wearing a face mask, social distancing and washing your hands frequently. And get a flu shot.”

The new government warnings come as many Americans have booked travel and accommodations for the holiday week and as many college students prepare to return home.


Vaccine with Emory connection shows early success

For the second time this month, there’s promising news about a COVID-19 vaccine candidate. Moderna said Monday that its shots provide strong protection and appear to be 94.5% effective. A week ago, competitor Pfizer announced its own COVID-19 vaccine appeared similarly effective. The news puts both companies on track to seek permission within weeks for emergency use in the U.S.

Emory University researchers working on the Moderna study were excited by the announcement that the vaccine soon will be submitted to federal health officials for approval.

About 700 of the approximately 30,000 trial participants were involved in the study through Emory. Its Phase 3 study began on Aug. 11 and concluded Oct. 23.

“This was just a fantastic day for all of us,” said Colleen Kelley, associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and principal investigator for the Moderna study at its Ponce de Leon Center.

During a Zoom call with reporters, Kelley said the next important step is encouraging people to get vaccinated. Polling has shown much hesitancy among Americans. ”We have a lot of work to do to convince people the vaccine is safe,” Kelley said.

Emory Healthcare joins push for mask wearing

Emory Healthcare joined about 100 major health systems across the country on Thursday in a push to encourage all Americans to wear masks to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The effort, including a social media blitz and ads in major U.S. newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is in response to the surge in cases.

The disease is straining hospital resources across the country.

”Masks slow the spread of COVID-19. So, please join us as we all embrace this simple ask: Wear. Care. Share with #MaskUp,” the campaign says. “Together, wearing is caring. And together, we are saving lives.”

Amy Comeau, vice president of marketing at Emory Healthcare, which operates 10 hospitals in metro Atlanta, said the campaign and website, www.everymaskup.com, serve as reminders that people have the power to help reduce spread. “The best thing we can continue to do is continue to wear a mask, wash your hands and watch your distance,” she said.

Staff writer Eric Stirgus and the Associated Press contributed to this article.