Coronavirus cases are on the rise again in Georgia. Reported cases rose in each of the past two weeks, and clusters of counties across the state have experienced spikes, state data shows.
The jump in confirmed infections comes amid broader testing for the virus and as Georgia loosens restrictions on movement and businesses.
Here is a look at major developments over the past week related to the coronavirus.
An uptick in coronavirus cases
The state Department of Public Health reported 5,442 new cases from June 7 to June 13, an increase of 8.2% from the week of May 31. The 5,028 cases reported the week of May 31 was up 23% from the 4,089 cases reported the week of May 24.
In total, Georgia has reported week-over-week increases in four of the past five weeks after four weeks of gradually declining cases.
And for this past week ending Saturday, there were 5,208 new cases as of Friday afternoon.
Though confirmed cases are up, hospitalizations remain well below levels reported early last month. On May 1, 1,500 people confirmed to have COVID-19 were hospitalized, according to state data. The state reported 865 current hospitalizations Tuesday, though that figure has trended up in recent days.
Ben Lopman, a professor of epidemiology and environmental health at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, said Georgia is essentially on an elevated plateau in cases.
“We’re much closer to the beginning than the end of this,” he said.
Georgia unemployment rate drops, but new claims still pour in
Georgia’s unemployment rate dropped last month to 9.7% from an all-time high of 12.6% in April, spurring hope that the economy has started to recover from massive job losses triggered by the pandemic.
The state added 79,600 jobs in May, according to the Georgia Department of Labor.
While other measures show uneven gains thus far, there’s reason to believe the numbers will keep improving, according to Labor Commissioner Mark Butler.
“We have to remember that the recent unemployment was not caused by an economic catalyst, but instead by a medical emergency,” he said. “Those jobs are still out there for the most part.”
After tripling in April, the national jobless rate also fell in May, dropping from 14.7% to 13.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some experts have said the optimism must be tempered, partly for statistical reasons. The number of unemployed does not include those who have dropped out of the labor force and many who believe their job loss is a temporary furlough.
And if the economy is starting to dig out, the hole is very deep. The number of employed Georgians was down 480,592 from May of 2019. During the week ending June 13, the state Department of Labor processed 131,997 initial jobless claims. Payments are being delayed as Georgia struggles to keep up with 2.5 million claims since mid-March.
Metro Atlanta hotels see first signs of slow recovery
Atlanta’s battered hotel industry is entering the first stages of a gradual recovery, as some hotels reopen and others see a slow return of guests.
But occupancy is still well below 50% on average, thousands of workers have been laid off or furloughed, and properties’ new policies for social distancing and sanitizing are expected to change the experience of staying at a hotel for the foreseeable future.
Hoteliers say there has been a gradual pickup in vacationers staying in beach areas and destinations near home, but few are flying in to visit Atlanta, particularly as some attractions remain closed and business travel is mostly shut down.
Robert Woolridge, general manager of the W Atlanta Buckhead, said his occupancy rates were down to 2%-5% in April and most of May. Other W hotels in Midtown and downtown suspended operations.
“Recently here, we’ve seen a spike,” with occupancy rates up to 50% Memorial Day weekend, he said. The hotel now averages 10%-15% full, he said. Only half of the hotel’s 12 floors are open.
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Georgia Aquarium reopens
The Georgia Aquarium has reopened and will institute new policies to safeguard the health of its visitors and employees.
Among those new policies: tickets will only be available online and must be purchased in advance.
To ensure social distancing between visitors, tickets will be sold for specific time blocks throughout the day.
All guests must consent to a contactless temperature scan prior to entering the building. Any person with a temperature of 100.4° or higher will not be permitted entry.
Like many other area attractions, the aquarium, one of downtown Atlanta’s most visited spots, was closed March 14 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Music Midtown postponed
For the first time since its return in 2011, Music Midtown is being postponed.
The festival would have been held at its usual home of Piedmont Park Sept. 19-20. Instead, it will take place at the same location Sept. 18-19, 2021. My Chemical Romance — the only artist announced for the 2020 edition — will remain on the bill.
Previously purchased tickets will be valid for the new date. Requests for refunds can also be made but must be received by July 16 and refunds will be issued to original method of payment “in as little as 30 days following the deadline,” according to event organizer Live Nation.
Staff writers J. Scott Trubey,Michael E. Kanell, Arielle Kass, Melissa Ruggieri and Kelly Yamanouchi contributed to this report.
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