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Georgia's Governor Rejects White House Report Critical Of State's Virus Response


Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia is rejecting the latest report from the White House Coronavirus Task Force. The report says his state leads the nation in new COVID-19 infections and recommends closing bars and gyms. The governor has declined to do that. He insists Georgia has made progress in slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Public health experts say those gains could easily disappear. Member station WABE in Atlanta, Sam Whitehead has this report.

SAM WHITEHEAD, BYLINE: Governor Kemp's main objection with the latest task force report is that it paints an incomplete picture. Yes, in the days tracked, Georgia might have led the country for new COVID-19 cases for every 100,000 people. But as Kemp told reporters this week, that's not the whole story.


BRIAN KEMP: Look. I'm fine. If you want to put the per capita numbers out there, I'll look at them every day, and that's good. But when you put that out there, also put that our hospitalizations have dropped.

WHITEHEAD: The Trump administration report does say some of Georgia's metrics are improving, but the state is still falling behind others. It also calls the gains Georgia has made in fighting the coronavirus small and fragile.

MARY UKUKU: There are some good signs, especially within the metro Atlanta area, where we're seeing a slight decrease, but these numbers are fragile.

WHITEHEAD: Mary Ukuku teaches public health at Kennesaw State University. She worries people will see the modest progress made in recent weeks and relax prevention measures, such as wearing face masks or avoiding large gatherings.

UKUKU: If we're not consistently following through with our preventative methods, we could really put ourselves at risk because we do have widespread community spread that makes it difficult for us to really control the virus.

WHITEHEAD: For weeks now, the task force has recommended state officials do more to slow the spread of the coronavirus, such as close bars and require face masks in hot spot counties. But Kemp has declined to take those actions. Colin Smith teaches public health at Georgia State University.

COLIN SMITH: We're not talking about, you know, a difference in political party between the White House and the governor's office. This is not a political issue at this point. Then those recommendations, at a minimum, would be what we would need to be doing, and we're not.

WHITEHEAD: The Trump administration report warns Georgia's continued progress in fighting COVID-19 will depend on putting stronger mitigation efforts in place. For NPR News, I'm Sam Whitehead in Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF IVY SONG, "KEEP MOVING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sam Whitehead is a reporter with GPB News.He has worked with “Here and Now,”NPR News, “State of the Re:Union,”WSKG News, andWRVO News. He also co-foundedWRFI Community Radio Newsin Ithaca, New York.He hasn’t won any awards yet.In his free time, he tries to become a better storyteller. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.