In early June, we paused our daily coronavirus updates. However, we will continue to provide updates weekly. Here’s what you need to know right now.
• As of publication time, a total of 161,401 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Georgia. 3,442 people have died. 1.38 million viral tests have been conducted, and 10.6 percent of those have been positive. 3,135 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. [GA Dept. of Public Health/GEMA]
• The mask drama continues: After Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order on July 8 requiring Atlantans wear face coverings in public spaces, Governor Brian Kemp banned cities and counties from enacting their own mask mandates with an executive order on July 15, then filed a lawsuit against Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council on July 16, arguing that both Atlanta’s mask order and the mayor’s announcement that Atlanta would roll back to “Phase One” of her COVID-19 re-opening plan are harmful to Atlanta businesses. (While the mask order is a requirement for Atlantans, the guidelines outlined in the re-opening plan are just recommendations.)
Then, this week, after two judges recused themselves from the case on July 21, Judge Jane Barwick ordered mediation between Kemp and Bottoms and plans to hold a Tuesday hearing “to weigh the merits of the case,” according to the AJC. Lawyers for Kemp and Bottoms have reportedly been discussing a settlement, but the mask order appears to be the sticking point the two parties cannot agree on.
The irony in all of this, of course, this that both Kemp and Bottoms are continuing to urge Atlantans to wear masks whenever they are in public spaces. The argument is whether or not it should be an offense if someone doesn’t—and who gets to make that decision. [AJC 1/AJC 2/AJC 3/AJC 4]
• And, despite the legal drama, many cities’ mask mandates remain in effect “until the courts can figure all this out,” the AJC says, including several metro Atlanta cites, Savannah, and Athens. Many businesses are also requiring masks nationwide, including Home Depot, Publix, Walmart, Kroger, and more. The AJC is keeping up with a list here, but even if a store or restaurant isn’t mandating it, if you can wear a mask, wear a mask.
• Hospitals are feeling the strain of the state’s increase in COVID-19 cases, with the fear of overcrowded ICUs once again looming large. There is some cause for hope—hospitals are better equipped to treat COVID-19 patients, and cases are rising the most among younger people, who are less likely to need ventilators. But an official with the Georgia Hospital Association told the AJC, “We’ve got areas all over the state that are experiencing very large numbers of patients; they are bumping up against capacity.” Some ERs in Atlanta have had to start diverting patients to other hospitals, and Wellstar Kennestone had only 4 available critical care beds on Thursday. Friday’s GEMA report shows that 46 percent of ER beds are available statewide, while only 13 percent of critical care beds and 19 percent of general inpatient beds are available. Region D, which includes Fulton, DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Clayton Counties, among a few others, has similar statistics, with 33 percent of ER beds, 13 percent of critical care beds, and 16 percent of general inpatient beds available. [AJC/GEMA]
• Moderna’s Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trials begin at Emory in early August, and Atlantans have an opportunity to participate. Contributor Michele Cohen Marill has all the details here, including how the trials have gone so far, how to sign up, and what to expect. [Atlanta]
• Dr. Alisha Kramer, an Emory OB/GYN and wife of U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff, has tested positive for COVID-19. She and Jon Ossoff are both symptomatic and are both isolating. [WSB-TV]
• Meanwhile, the mayor announced this week she is officially out of quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. [Twitter]
• The Atlanta Braves started their abbreviated 2020 season this week, but on Opening Day, just before play was to start, catchers Tyler Flowers and Travis d’Arnaud showed symptoms of COVID-19 and were recalled from play. [Yahoo Sports]
• A lot of questions remain about the upcoming NFL season, but the Atlanta Falcons announced plans this week to restrict capacity at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to 10,000-20,000, with all fans required to wear masks. The same rules will apply to Atlanta United fans, with games expected to be scheduled once the MLS is Back Tournament ends. (Atlanta was eliminated from the tournament on Tuesday.) [Atlanta Falcons/Dirty South Soccer]