Breaking News

CONTINUING COVERAGE: Election results for Georgia runoff election

X

A look at major coronavirus developments during the past week

In May, specimen collection volunteers lined up to take hundreds of free COVID-19 tests at a pop-up site at the House of Hope in Decatur. As temperatures have warmed with the start of summer, coronavirus cases are spiking throughout the state again. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM
In May, specimen collection volunteers lined up to take hundreds of free COVID-19 tests at a pop-up site at the House of Hope in Decatur. As temperatures have warmed with the start of summer, coronavirus cases are spiking throughout the state again. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

The pandemic rages on. Instead of vanishing under warmer temperatures, as the president once predicted, the coronavirus has only bitten down harder.

Spiking cases have Georgia’s rural hospitals bracing for surges all over again. Infections have increased among people in their teens and 20s, who health experts say may be less likely to heed guidance to wear masks and socially distance. But the governor, who has championed a swift reopening of the economy, says he has no plans to impose new restrictions or mandate face masks.

All signs point to a rough summer ahead.

Here is a look at major developments over the past week related to the coronavirus.

The LaGrange metro area is experiencing one of the worst rates of new deaths and new cases in the nation relative to its population, The New York Times has reported. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM
The LaGrange metro area is experiencing one of the worst rates of new deaths and new cases in the nation relative to its population, The New York Times has reported. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM

Disease tears into rural Georgia

Another hot spot has emerged in Troup County, along the Alabama border. The LaGrange metro area is experiencing one of the highest rates of new deaths and new cases in the nation relative to its population, The New York Times reported.

This month, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in Troup, and more than two dozen people have died from it. The disease has spread through the county jail, LaGrange Health and Rehab nursing home and the massive Kia Motors manufacturing plant.

As summer approaches and residents yearn for a return to normalcy, authorities have broken up large house parties in West Point and LaGrange. Local officials, scrambling to remind residents of the ongoing threat, are handing out free cloth masks.

“Bottom line, people are not taking precautions like they should,” West Point Mayor Steve Tramell said.

Alanteo “Henry” Hutchinson and his girlfriend, Tameka Atkinson, seen here at their home in West Point, both tested positive for COVID-19 in early June. This month, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in Troup County, and more than two dozen people have died from it. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM
Alanteo “Henry” Hutchinson and his girlfriend, Tameka Atkinson, seen here at their home in West Point, both tested positive for COVID-19 in early June. This month, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has more than doubled in Troup County, and more than two dozen people have died from it. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM

With the battle shifting to rural areas, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency announced Wednesday that it will move 80 beds out of the little-used temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center and set them up 100 miles southeast inside a shuttered youth military academy in Milledgeville.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: A hard-hit nursing home’s battle with COVID-19

» THE LATEST: YMCA shuts down 2 summer camps after counselor tests positive for COVID-19

Cases up among young adults

So how is the virus spreading? According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis, adults under 30 make up the fastest-growing group of new infections. People 18 to 29 made up about 29% of the new cases so far in June, up from 21% in May and 13% in April, the analysis shows.

COVID-19 tends to be milder for young adults than for the elderly, but the disease isn’t without risk. Of the 13,496 adults under 30 who had tested positive through Tuesday, 542 — or about 4% — have been hospitalized and 11 have died, according to state data.

Mary Beth McKenna, director of religious education, checks a position for signs at St. Benedict Catholic Church in May. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM
Mary Beth McKenna, director of religious education, checks a position for signs at St. Benedict Catholic Church in May. HYOSUB SHIN / HYOSUB.SHIN@AJC.COM

“We do see severe cases of COVID-19 in young people, particularly with people with co-morbidities,” said Dr. Jesse Couk, assistant medical director of infection control at Piedmont Hospital and medical director of infection control at The Shepherd Center in Buckhead. “And as the spread continues and cases continue to rise, and they will if we don’t do anything differently, we will see it work its way into more vulnerable populations.”

It’s unclear if any cases have been connected to recent demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality.

» Complete coverage: Coronavirus

   At a media briefing Friday outside a testing facility in Gwinnett County, Gov. Brian Kemp said he doesn’t plan to impose new restrictions or require the use of masks to combat the spread of disease. He said mandating masks is a “bridge too far for me right now,” but urged Georgians to wear them and practice social distancing. AJC / STEVE SCHAEFER
At a media briefing Friday outside a testing facility in Gwinnett County, Gov. Brian Kemp said he doesn’t plan to impose new restrictions or require the use of masks to combat the spread of disease. He said mandating masks is a “bridge too far for me right now,” but urged Georgians to wear them and practice social distancing. AJC / STEVE SCHAEFER

Gov. Kemp has no plans for new restrictions

After Georgia hit new daily coronavirus case records on four days last week, Gov. Brian Kemp said Friday he doesn't plan to impose new restrictions or require the use of masks to combat the spread of disease, as other states have done.

Kemp said mandating masks is a “bridge too far for me right now,” but urged Georgians to wear them and practice social distancing.

“There’s some people that just do not want to wear a mask. I’m sensitive to that from a political environment of having people buy into that, and creating other issues out there,” he said. “But it’s definitely a good idea.”

Kemp said the state continues to “hold our own” in the quest to contain the disease, citing increased troves of life-saving personal protection equipment and testimony from hospital executives encouraged by new treatments.

The annual fireworks display at Centennial Olympic Park has been nixed this year over coronavirus concerns, as have other popular displays at Stone Mountain and Truist Park. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA / CHRISTINA.MATACOTTA@AJC.COM
The annual fireworks display at Centennial Olympic Park has been nixed this year over coronavirus concerns, as have other popular displays at Stone Mountain and Truist Park. CHRISTINA MATACOTTA / CHRISTINA.MATACOTTA@AJC.COM

» Complete coverage: Coronavirus dashboard

Fourth of July fireworks canceled

In yet another sign of Covid times, our nation's birthday should be a lot quieter this year. Numerous cities and counties around the four-county metro area have canceled or postponed their fireworks plans.

Two of the largest and most popular displays, in Centennial Olympic Park and Stone Mountain, have been nixed. Because there will be no Atlanta Braves game, Truist Park won't have its holiday fireworks show.

The same goes for parades and pyrotechnics in Sandy Springs, Roswell, Marietta, Acworth, Lawrenceville, Norcross and the Mall of Georgia. Kennesaw rescheduled its celebration to Sept. 12. Lilburn has postponed its event to November, and Braselton will hold its Independence Day fireworks and festival on Sept. 5.

Other local governments plan to soldier on, with precautions. On July 3, DeKalb County is hosting a drive-in movie night and fireworks show at The Gallery at South DeKalb mall. The socially distanced event is free, but only the first 200 cars and 50 people who walk up can attend.

East Point will have a Census Caravan Parade on the holiday, with stations set up for people to complete census forms and a virtual fireworks show available through a smart phone app.

The city of Tucker will host a virtual fireworks show and concert on July 3, available to stream online.

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has announced that authorized boat rental companies and fishing guides can begin operating on the river again. VISIT SANDY SPRINGS
The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area has announced that authorized boat rental companies and fishing guides can begin operating on the river again. VISIT SANDY SPRINGS

Boat rentals resume on the Chattahoochee

One thing you can still do — shoot the ‘hooch in a rented raft.

The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area announced that authorized boat rental companies and fishing guides can begin operating. Entrance fees once again will be charged — $5 for a daily pass and $40 for an annual pass.

The Chattahoochee National Park Conservancy said in a Facebook post that commercial services permitted to reopen are Nantahala Outdoor Center, River Through Atlanta, High Country Outfitters, Shoot the Hooch, Deep South Fly Anglers, Kayak Classes of Georgia, Tie One On and $10 Tubing.

A Facebook posting by the National Park Service asks visitors to maintain a social distance of at least six feet, wear a face mask around crowded parking lots and boat ramps, and bring water to stay hydrated.

Staff writers Jeremy Redmon, J. Scott Trubey, Greg Bluestein, Amanda C. Coyne, J.D. Capelouto, Kristal Dixon, Adrianne Murchison and and David Ibata contributed to this report.