A look at major coronavirus developments over the past week

Drive-up testing for COVID-19.
Drive-up testing for COVID-19.

The latest report from President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force noted an improvement in the number of new cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in Georgia, but said that the state is still in the red zone.

The report warned the improvements are “fragile” without more aggressive actions. Gov. Brian Kemp’s office said it was considering deploying Georgia National Guard “mobile strike teams” to nursing homes, religious institutions, schools and colleges to better contain the disease.

The report urged state leaders to impose a mask mandate and other restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Like previous reports, it also urged Kemp to close bars in counties that have rising rates of positive cases.

Georgia reported week-over-week case increases in nine out of 10 weeks from early May through mid-July, peaking the week of July 12, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of state data.

Cases have declined in each of the past five full weeks. But the current seven-day rolling average of cases, which was about 2,333 on Thursday, is still nearly four times the rate reported on June 1. And there is “substantial spread,” as defined by state Department of Public Health guidelines, in nearly every county in Georgia.

As the rate of new case counts has fallen, about two dozen counties have been removed from the White House task force’s red zone. In metro Atlanta, those include Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

Still, 82 Georgia counties remain in the White House red zone, down from 109 the week earlier.

ExploreGeorgia coronavirus: News updates, case counts and safety information from the AJC

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

Senior care group pushes for statewide masks

One of the state’s leading senior care trade groups is calling on Kemp to implement a statewide mask mandate, something he has resisted.

LeadingAge Georgia sent Kemp a letter urging the mandate — the second letter from the group this month. It also encouraged its members to write the governor to push for a mandate. According to the AARP, 34 other states have implemented mask requirements.

“As long as community spread is uncontrolled, older adults and those who serve them are at risk,” the alert issued to members says.

Kemp’s office said he has no plans to issue a statewide mask mandate but noted that his current executive order requires nursing home staff to wear masks.

The governor also has encouraged Georgians to wear masks, and this month, for the first time, he allowed local governments to issue mask mandates.

File photo of QuikTrip at Cumberland Blvd. and Spring Road in Smyrna. QuikTrip is hiring.
File photo of QuikTrip at Cumberland Blvd. and Spring Road in Smyrna. QuikTrip is hiring. JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM



Job gains slow, while layoffs dip

Last month, 15,300 jobs were added to the metro Atlanta economy. While the expansion was good enough to trim the unemployment rate to 8.5% in July from 8.6% in June, there were 200,800 fewer jobs last month than at the end of last year.

Metro Atlanta saw massive job losses in April. Yet the flood of layoffs — while still historically high — has been ebbing.

The state Department of Labor said Thursday that it processed 56,768 new jobless claims in Georgia for the week ending August 22, down slightly from the prior week and far below the stratospheric peaks of April.

More than 3.5 million jobless claims have been filed since mid-March, 1.5 million of them judged to be valid. More than 500,000 Georgians are currently receiving benefits.

Paying those claims has nearly depleted the state’s trust fund, said Georgia labor commissioner Mark Butler.

Yet hiring continues in many corners of the economy.

QuikTrip is adding 375 full- and part-time jobs in scores of stations around metro Atlanta, according to a company spokeswoman. On Thursday, Amazon held an online hiring fair, promising jobs that pay up to $17.50 an hour.

In this file photo, a flu shot is administered to a child at Conyers Pediatrics in Conyers.
 (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
In this file photo, a flu shot is administered to a child at Conyers Pediatrics in Conyers. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Credit: alyssa.pointer@ajc.com

Georgia health say flu shot especially important this season

Every year, Georgia public health officials recommend getting a flu shot. With the coronavirus still circulating widely, they say getting vaccinated for the flu is particularly important this season.

COVID-19 and the flu are contagious respiratory illnesses that spread in similar ways, mainly through droplets when those who are ill cough, sneeze or talk. And the viruses share symptoms: fever, headache, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue.

That makes it often hard to initially differentiate between the two. COVID-19 is more contagious than the flu, and coronavirus-infected adults often get much sicker.

But even the run-of-the-mill flu can be dangerous and could strain resources if a wave of sick patients shows up in doctors’ offices or at hospitals.

Worse yet, it’s possible to get sick with COVID-19 and the flu at the same time. While it’s not yet clear how the two viruses interact, doctors believe the flu could leave patients more vulnerable to a severe attack of COVID-19. Coming down with both at once could be devastating.


Staff writers By Greg Bluestein, J. Scott Trubey, Carrie Teegardin and Michael E. Kanell contributed to this article.