Congress demands answers about Georgia’s coronavirus response

August 1, 2020
2 mins read

A Congressional committee on coronavirus is demanding answers from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp about the state’s response to COVID-19.

The committee has given Kemp until August 12 to provide documentation and an explanation for why the state is not following the recommendations of the Coronavirus Task Force, which recently put Georgia in the “red zone” for severe spread of the virus.

A similar letter was sent to three other red zone states that the committee said are also not in compliance with the recommendations.

The letter, which was sent to Kemp by ranking member of the Select Subcommittee on The Coronavirus Crisis Steve Scalise, asks Kemp to provide the following documents to Congress:

  • All documents or communications regarding formal or informal guidance and public health recommendations provided by the White House Task Force to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia.
  • A detailed description of any decisions made or public health measures that were implemented or rescinded in Georgia as a result of any communications or guidance referenced in Request 1.
  • A detailed description of the state’s current plans to implement additional public health measures to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The letter references a report prepared for the Coronavirus Task Force on July 26 that explains why Georgia is in the red zone. The portion of that report provided in the letter is below:

“Georgia is in the red zone for cases, indicating more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week, and the red zone for test positivity, indicating a rate above 10%. Georgia has seen an increase in new cases and an increase in testing positivity over the past week. … Georgia is experiencing widespread community spread without evidence of improvement. Improvement will require much more aggressive mitigation efforts to change the trajectory of the pandemic in Georgia.”

The letter then details six areas where Georgia is out of compliance with the task force’s recommendations. Below are those six recommendations and the subcommittee’s explanation for why Georgia is out of compliance.

Task Force RecommendationGeorgia’s Status
“Mandate use of masks in all current and evolving hot spots – optimally a statewide mandate.”Not in compliance – Local jurisdictions are banned from requiring masks to be worn in public. Rather than requiring masks, your July 15 order and subsequent public statements have “strongly encouraged” people to wear face coverings when out in public or when it is not possible to socially 7 Bottoms, to block the city from implementing a mask 8 On July 16, you filed a lawsuit against Atlanta government officials, including Mayor Keisha Lance distance inside. requirement.
“Move to outdoor dining and limit indoor dining to less than 25% occupancy.”Not in compliance – Restaurants are permitted to operate 9 indoor dining at full capacity. On July 16, you filed a lawsuit against Atlanta government officials to block the city from implementing an order for restaurants to close indoor 10 dining rooms.
For counties in the red or yellow zone, “[e]nsure that all business retailers and personal services require masks and can safely social distance[.]”Not in compliance – Businesses, including retailers and service providers, are not required to ensure workers or patrons wear masks or social distance. Instead, your July 15 order states that businesses “should implement” certain measures “if practicable,” such as providing personal protective equipment and increasing physical space between 11 individuals’ worksites.
“Close establishments where social distancing and mask use cannot occur, such as bars[.]”Not in compliance – Bars are permitted to operate with certain restrictions, including limiting the number of people inside the bar to 50 people or 35% of the total listed fire capacity occupancy of the entire bar, whichever is greater, 12 and increasing physical space between workers and patrons.
For counties in the red zone, “[c]lose … gyms[.]” For counties in the yellow zone, “[l]imit gyms to 25% occupancy.”Not in compliance – Gyms are permitted to operate with certain restrictions, including limiting occupancy and restricting use of particular machines to enforce social distancing 13 requirements.
“[L]imit social gatherings to fewer than 10 people[.]”Not in compliance – Social gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted without any social distancing. Gatherings of more than 50 people are permitted “if their grouping is transitory or 14 incidental” or if the people are socially distanced.

You can read the full letter to Gov. Kemp below.

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