A look at major coronavirus developments during the past week
LaTasha Lewis, owner of Tadda Fitness in Decatur, Georgia, at her fitness studio on Thursday. Since the coronavirus pandemic, Lewis has had to adjust how she trains her clients, such as implementing social distancing in the studio, offering Zoom workout classes and ensuring her clients are healthy before coming in for a workout.Rebecca Wright for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
In his latest order, Gov. Brian Kemp lifted a shelter-in-place requirement for older Georgians, cleared the way for live entertainment venues to reopen and gave the OK for larger gatherings to resume.
Here’s a look at major developments related to the coronavirus over the past week.
Kemp relaxes several restrictions
The executive order immediately repeals a shelter-in-place requirement for Georgians age 65 and older, unless they are considered “medically fragile,” a designation that includes those suffering from chronic lung or heart disease.
Starting Tuesday, gatherings of as many as 50 people are permitted without social-distancing requirements. For groups larger than that, participants must maintain 6 feet of space between each other.
The order also relaxes several restrictions on in-person dining at restaurants, removing a limit on the number of patrons who can sit together and permitting salad bars and buffets to reopen with precautions.
Live entertainment venues, such as concert halls, are allowed to reopen July 1 and must adhere to certain regulations. Conventions, too, will be allowed to resume on that date if organizers obtain a special license and follow safety guidelines.
Kemp has steadily eased restrictions imposed in early April, making a case that the economic fallout from coronavirus restrictions has rivaled the disease’s threat to public safety.
Democrats and some public health experts have sharply criticized Kemp’s approach, fearing that the relaxed restrictions could trigger a new wave of COVID-19 infections.
The number of Georgians hospitalized by the virus has dropped since May 1, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health.
And, while Georgia’s coronavirus cases are trending flat, a fifth of U.S. states is experiencing a surge, including four of the five states bordering the Peach State.
Public health officials also have raised concerns that protests against police brutality across the nation could spread the disease. Georgia recently issued plans for test sites so demonstrators can get screened for the coronavirus.
Delta to test all employees for COVID-19
Delta Air Lines is taking steps to test all of its employees for COVID-19 as it prepares to add back more flights at its Atlanta hub in July as travel gradually recovers.
CEO Ed Bastian said the company has entered partnerships with the Mayo Clinic and Quest Diagnostics to test all Delta employees for the coronavirus or antibodies.
Bastian said Delta has had 10 employees die due to the virus.
“Every one of them breaks my heart,” Bastian said.
But, he said, the curve has flattened within Delta’s workforce. At the peak, he said, the airline had 2o to 25 positive cases a day among its employees. Over the last month, that has dropped to one or two a day.
The airline has 90,000 employees, though about 41,000 have taken voluntary unpaid leaves. The company also is cutting its workforce through buyouts and early retirements to adjust to the more than 80% decline in travel.
The company also announced that it will extend its policy to block middle seats and cap seating capacity at 60% in the main cabin through Sept. 30, along with caps on passenger loads in first class and business class.
Bastian acknowledged that some people, including those in high-risk categories, “probably should not be traveling.” But he said for others, “it’s the best time to fly.”
Emory, other universities prepare for the fall
Emory University announced plans for how it will conduct classes for the fall semester when it will return to in-person instruction.
The school will limit how many students can reside in dorms and institute mandatory COVID-19 testing of students in those dorms and those taking in-person classes.
The plans also include random temperature checks across campus each day by trained university staff. Class sizes will be minimized. The fall semester will begin Aug. 19, and finals will be conducted remotely.
Other universities, including the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, are also moving forward with plans for employees and students to return to campus. Emory University said in a statement that some details are still to come, such as rules about face coverings and social distancing.
Staff writers Greg Bluestein, Mark Niesse, Eric Stirgus and Kelly Yamanouchi contributed to this report.