White House task force puts GA in ‘red zone,’ committee gives state 2 weeks to send new COVID-19 plans

ATLANTA — Four states, including Georgia, have less than two weeks to respond to a federal coronavirus crisis subcommittee demanding plans for more public health measures to control COVID-19 spread.

This comes as Georgia cases peak, with the state reporting more than 4,100 new cases on Friday.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr obtained a letter sent to Gov. Brian Kemp’s office dated July 29. Kemp’s office says it hasn’t received it.

It was at the center of debate in Washington, D.C. on Friday with the coronavirus subcommittee chairman, Rep. Jim Clyburn, D- South Carolina, saying when he sent the letter he was not targeting Republican-led states.

“My response had to do with the four states that have refused to comply with the critical recommendations of the task force,” Clyburn said.

The congressman called for states to comply with recommendations made in a new White House coronavirus task force report.


Georgia is among 21 states listed in the red zone. Some 17 states had not been adhering to guidelines.

“In contrast with that we did not send the letter to those states that indicated they will comply with the task force and three of those states have Republican governors that did not get a letter from us, so this has nothing to do with partisanship, but political response rather responding to the science,” Clyburn said.

The report shows Georgia’s positivity rate is above 10% and climbing. It calls for increased testing, mask mandates and more aggressive enforcement of social gatherings.

On Friday, the state health department pointed towards the governor’s and health department head’s mask recommendation campaign, push for social distancing and frequent hand-washing .A spokeswoman also pointed to the current executive order limiting bar capacity ,and outlining best practices for other businesses.

Scientists, who say they’re not interested in the politics of the pandemic, weighed in on the current COVID case rise in Georgia.

“We’re really seeing a high level of cases. Over 3,500 cases a day across the state are being reported. There’s upwards of 3,000 people hospitalized for COVID across the state and deaths are at the highest level since the epidemic began in Georgia,” said Dr. Ben Lopman, professor of epidemiology and environmental health at Emory University.

He told Carr that the cause of spread is simple: we’ve relaxed in social distancing.

“You know, the White House Task Force has been quite clear now, and they haven’t always been so clear, but they are quite clear of calling for increased mask use and even calling for a statewide mask mandate here in Georgia,” Lopman said.

Lopman says the science makes one thing very clear.

“The risk of transmission in school is really going to be really influenced by how much disease there is in community. Those places across the world that have been able to open schools safely have been able to do so because they got community transmission under control,” Lopman said.

Clyburn’s letter to Kemp and the governors of Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma have an Aug. 12 deadline to respond to that request on how they’ve responded to the White House task force report, and more plans on controlling the spread.