Georgia, Whitfield County remain in COVID-19 'red zone'; state's numbers continue to improve

Georgia and Whitfield County remain in the red zone in the latest report of the White House Coronavirus Task Force for the seven days that ended Aug. 30.

The red zone is defined as 100 new confirmed cases of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) per 100,000 population and at least 10% of tests coming back positive.

Murray County remains in the yellow zone, defined as between 10 and 100 new cases and 5 to 10% of tests positive or one of those measures and the other coming back as qualifying for a red zone.

The task force issues a new report each week. Georgia has been in the red zone since the July 5 report. Whitfield County has been in the red zone since the July 19 report, and Murray County has been in the yellow zone since the Aug. 2 report.

Still, the task force reported some good news for Georgia, with the number of new cases each week falling 11.2% from the prior week to 13,987. There were 24,967 new cases in the week ended Aug. 2. The percentage of tests coming back positive fell to 8.3% in the latest week from 8.8% in the prior week and 13.9% in the week ended Aug. 2.

The number of COVID-19 deaths in the state fell 13% to 477 in the seven days ended Aug. 30.

"We’re monitoring the situation continuously," said Hamilton Medical Center Director of Infection Prevention Perri Correll. "Hamilton continues to follow CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines related to coronavirus. We are wearing masks, distancing ourselves, using our Xenex germ-zapping robots to disinfect surfaces and limiting visitors. COVID-19 patients are treated in a separate, protected area of the hospital.

"Because we’re already on the highest level of precautions, that listing doesn’t change our procedures. We want to remind everyone in the community to wear masks, social distance and wash hands often to protect themselves and those around them. Keeping our community, including our employees, safe is the highest priority."

Among the report's recommendations for counties in the red zone:

• Ask every citizen to limit social gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

• Increase messaging of the risk of serious disease for individuals in all age groups for individuals with preexisting medical conditions, including obesity, hypertension and diabetes mellitus.

• Limit indoor dining to less than 25% of occupancy and expand outdoor dining.

Gov. Brian Kemp's latest public health order requires restaurants to maintain 6 feet of distance between parties or to erect physical barriers to separate parties. But it does not otherwise limit their occupancy.

Dalton Mayor David Pennington notes that the governor's order bars cities and counties from enacting restrictions that go beyond the governor's, so the city of Dalton cannot further limit seating.

County COVID-19 numbers

Whitfield County

• 4,164 confirmed cases, 55 deaths, 217 hospitalizations, 3,978 cases per 100,000, 295 cases during the last two weeks

Murray County

• 732 confirmed cases, 4 deaths, 42 hospitalizations, 1,818 cases per 100,000, 47 cases during the last two weeks

Source: Georgia Department of Public Health as of 2:50 p.m. on Tuesday

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