Georgia passes 6,000 coronavirus deaths

Labor Day weekend saw Georgia pass yet another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic, when the state passed 6,000 COVID-related deaths.

According to figures released Sunday afternoon by the state Department of Public Health, 6,037 coronavirus-related deaths have now occurred in Georgia. A total of 283,199 cases have been reported.

Georgia has recorded more than 1,000 deaths in just over the last two weeks. The state passed 5,000 coronavirus-related deaths on Aug. 22.

Gov. Brian Kemp embarked on a statewide fly-around tour Friday to urge Georgians to take precautions to stem the spread of the disease over the Labor Day weekend. Kemp has been criticized by public health experts and other critics who say he should take more drastic action to defeat the disease, including implementing new economic restrictions and imposing a statewide mask mandate.

Many of Georgia’s college leaders are also worried as COVID-19 cases have surged on some of the state’s largest public campuses.

The federal government has told states to prepare for a coronavirus vaccine to be ready to distribute by Nov. 1.

In a letter to governors dated Aug. 27, Robert Redfield, director of the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said states “in the near future” will receive permit applications from McKesson Corp., which has contracted with CDC to distribute vaccines to places including state and local health departments and hospitals.

CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told state governors last week to prepare for the vaccine.

“CDC urgently requests your assistance in expediting applications for these distribution facilities and, if necessary, asks that you consider waiving requirements that would prevent these facilities from becoming fully operational by November 1, 2020,” Redfield wrote.

The CDC also sent three planning documents to some health departments that included possible timelines for when vaccines would be available.

The documents are to be used to develop plans for early vaccination when the supply might be constrained, according to one of the documents, which outlined a scenario in which a vaccine could be available as soon as the end of October.

Americans headed into Labor Day weekend amid warnings from public health experts that backyard parties, crowded bars and other gatherings could cause the coronavirus to come surging back.

“I look upon the Labor Day weekend really as a critical point,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert. “Are we going to go in the right direction and continue the momentum downward, or are we going to have to step back a bit as we start another surge?”

Fauci says US can get COVID-19 numbers ‘way down’ by election day

The rise in infections, deaths and hospitalizations over the summer, primarily in the South and West, was blamed in part on Americans behaving heedlessly over Memorial Day and July Fourth.

The landscape has improved in recent weeks, with the numbers headed in the right direction in hard-hit states like Florida, Arizona and Texas, but there are certain risk factors that could combine with Labor Day: Children are going back to school, university campuses are seeing soaring case counts, college football is starting, more businesses are open, and flu season is around the corner.

And a few states are heading into the holiday with less room in hospitals than they had over Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Alabama, for example, had about 800 people hospitalized with the virus on July 1. This past week, it had just under 1,000.

Surprising facts you may not have known about Labor Day

More beaches will be open on Labor Day than on Memorial Day, but Fauci said that is not cause in itself for concern, as long as people keep their distance.

“I would rather see someone on a beach, being physically separated enough, than someone crowded in an indoor bar,” he said.

The coronavirus outbreak is blamed for about 187,000 deaths and almost 6.2 million confirmed infections in the U.S., by far the highest totals in the world. Cases of COVID-19, which spiked from about 20,000 per day to around 70,000 during the summertime surge in the South, are now down to about 40,000.