Deadly toll | Georgia surpasses 3,000 coronavirus deaths

Georgia reached 3,001 COVID-19-related deaths on Sunday, with the state Department of Public Health also reporting 116,926 confirmed coronavirus cases.

The department releases new numbers around 3 p.m. each day. On Saturday, Georgia’s death toll stood at 2,996, and five new deaths have been reported over the last 24 hours.

The numbers were reported the same day that Florida shattered the national record for the largest single-day increase in positive coronavirus cases in any state since the pandemic’s beginning, adding more than 15,000 cases as its daily average death toll continued rising.

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On Friday, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms reinstated Phase 1 reopening guidelines after a steady surge in coronavirus cases. Under the guidelines, residents should wear face masks, restaurants should close dining rooms, non-essential city facilities should close and individuals are encouraged to leave home only for essential trips.

The rollback order came despite Gov. Brian Kemp's criticism the city's Phase 1 guidelines are unenforceable. Kemp's executive orders legally supersede the mayor's guidelines.

“Mayor Bottoms’ action today is merely guidance — both non-binding and legally unenforceable. As clearly stated in the Governor’s executive order, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide,” the governor said.

Bottoms announced Monday that she tested positive for COVID-19, then signed an executive order mandating face coverings in public Wednesday.

In Florida, 15,299 people tested positive, for a total of 269,811 cases, and 45 deaths were recorded. California had the previous record of daily positive cases — 11,694, set on Wednesday. New York had 11,571 on April 15.

The numbers come at the end of a grim, record-breaking week as Florida reported 514 fatalities — an average of 73 per day. Three weeks ago, the state was averaging 30 deaths per day. Since the pandemic began in March, 4,346 people have died in Florida of COVID-19, the state says.

Others Southern states also reported surges in the coronavirus and rising death tolls on Sunday. In South Carolina, which has now banned alcohol sales in bars and restaurants,  more than 1,900 new cases and 10 new deaths were reported.

According to The New York Times, South Carolina had the world's third-worst COVID-19 outbreak during the last week, trailing only Arizona and Florida. Hospital beds are at 72 percent capacity.

In Washington on Sunday, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos doubled down on President Donald Trump’s insistence kids can safely return to the classroom this fall.

“There’s nothing in the data that suggests that kids being in school is in any way dangerous,” she told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Trump administration is pushing to force schools to resume in-person education, despite public health experts warn that a one-size-fits-all reopening could drive infection and death rates even higher.

They’re urging a more cautious approach, which many local governments and school districts are already pursuing.

“These are complicated issues. You can’t just charge straight ahead,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday during an online briefing.