White House warns virus is spreading in social gatherings

President Donald Trump watches Stephen Hahn, Food and Drugs commissioner, during a news conference announcing an emergency use authorization of a plasma treatment for COVID-19, at the White House in Washington, Aug. 23, 2020. Emergency-use authorizations, a formerly obscure corner of regulatory law, have become a centerpiece of the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. (Oliver Contreras/The New York Times)

Credit: NYT

Credit: NYT

Friend and family gatherings continue to contribute to spread of the coronavirus, a new White House report says, warning Georgians against unmasked private gatherings.

Georgia has made significant progress since the summer surge in new COVID-19 cases, the latest White House Coronavirus Task Force report said. But officials urged Georgians to wear face coverings around friends and family, warning of the risk of asymptomatic spread.

“People must remember that seemingly uninfected family members and friends may be infected but asymptomatic,” the latest task force report, dated Sunday, said. “Exposure to asymptomatic cases can easily lead to spread as people unmask in private gatherings. Encourage outdoor activities and ensure mask and physical distancing messages for all residents, both in public and private spaces.”

The White House warning follows a plateau in new cases reported in Georgia over the past two weeks and ahead of a campaign rally President Trump plans to attend in Macon on Friday.

On Tuesday, Georgia reported 993 net new cases and 25 net new deaths. To date, Georgia has reported 333,304 cases of COVID-19 and 7,454 deaths attributed to the disease. The state said 1,330 people are currently hospitalized for COVID-19.

The current seven-day rolling average of new cases of 1,236 is down about two-thirds from the July peak, an AJC analysis of state data found. Hospitalizations also are down from the peak by about 60%.

But while Georgia has improved in both metrics since the peak, Georgia’s seven-day rolling average of new cases remains about double what it was at the low point at the end of May, a month after Gov. Brian Kemp relaxed shelter-in-place orders.

The rolling average of people currently hospitalized is about 57% higher than the bottom in early June.

The U.S. has reported increasing cases since Sept. 13, with case growth in more than three dozen states.

Georgia remains in the orange zone for cases and the yellow zone for test positivity, unchanged from the past two weeks, the White House report said. Georgia ranked 33rd nationally in the seven days ended Friday in the rate of new cases of the coronavirus and 26th for test positivity (5.8%).

A week ago, Georgia reported the 28th highest case rate and ranked 21st in positivity.

“Georgia has made progress and needs to ensure the gains are sustained,” the White House report said. “Mitigation efforts should continue to include mask wearing, physical distancing, hand hygiene, avoiding crowds in public and social gatherings in private, and ensuring flu immunizations.”

The latest White House report continues to focus on increasing testing, tackling outbreaks in college towns and reducing spread within long-term care facilities, which can be particularly deadly.

In Other News