ATLANTA, Ga. (CW69 News at 10/CNN) – Even though Georgia’s coronavirus infection rate is among the worst in the nation, a spokeswoman for Gov. Brian Kemp pushed back on questions about a lack of progress made in combating COVID-19 in the state.
As first reported by the Atlanta Journal Constitution and WABE, the latest report from the White House Task Force on coronavirus shows Georgia is in a “fragile” state and could suffer more without further aggressive actions to control the virus, including a statewide mandate on masks and closing bars in areas with high transmission rates, according to the report.
CNN reached out to the White House and the Task Force for comment, but in the past, they have repeatedly declined to make these reports public.
Responding to questions about the Task Force report, Director of Communications for Kemp, Candice Broce, said in an email, “Since the last Coronavirus Task Force report was leaked to the AJC, our new cases per 100,000 people has dropped by 22.68%.”
However, for a second week in a row Georgia is among the worst in the nation for new coronavirus cases.
Georgia is currently third in the country for the 7-day average of new cases per 100,000, with 23.40 cases per 100,000. The state is currently averaging 2,485 new cases over 7-days, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Broce said the state has made improvements in notable metrics, including in its 7-day average of new cases which has been steadily dropping since Georgia was at its highest levels in late July.
In the last seven days, cases across Georgia have declined by 12%. Over the last 14 days the state has seen a 26.26% decrease in cases, according to an analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University.
New infections are still much higher than the pre-July peak on April 7 of 1,842.
Broce further defended the governor’s efforts by underscoring recent improvements made in hospitalizations and positivity rates. She added that the White House Task Force report, which CNN has not independently verified, shows “Georgia is making progress and has seen a decrease in new cases and a decrease in test positivity over the last week.”
The report, which was dated August 23, also reportedly recommends for Kemp to close bars in “hotspot” counties. Citing specific protections for private property rights, Broce said bars were “already operating at reduced capacity” for months because of Kemp’s executive order.
Addressing the Task Force’s reported recommendations for more actions to protect people in long-term care facilities, including access to better rapid testing, Broce said by the end of September the federal government had indicated all licensed skilled nursing facilities would have access.
In Georgia, our testing capacity continues to exceed the demand. If you or a loved one were exposed to someone with COVID-19 or feel symptomatic, visit one of our 180+ sites throughout Georgia, including the "Mega-testing" site near @ATLairport. #gapol https://t.co/lBZz8Obpjg
— Brian Kemp (@BrianKempGA) August 25, 2020
“They state that every skilled nursing facility will have this capacity once they complete delivery of materials. We continue to support long-term care facilities across Georgia with testing supplies, personal protective equipment, augmented staff, and similar resources,” Broce said.
“75% of our hospitals report having less COVID patients in their facility today than four weeks ago,” she added.
Across the state, the demand for testing is declining despite substantial capacity, including in long-term facilities, which have been the source of outbreak clusters throughout the pandemic. Kemp is currently considering renewed deployment of mobile strike teams to specific areas of need using the Georgia National Guard, if needed, Broce said.
Still, more than five months into the pandemic Georgia’s governor remains unwilling to mandate masks statewide, something public health officials say would help improve the state’s standing among the worst in the nation for new cases.
Responding to questions about the possibility of a statewide mask mandate, Kemp continued to defer to local governments whom Broce said Kemp has “empowered to implement mandates through his current executive order.”
©2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. CNN contributed to the story.