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July 2020
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Dog tests positive for coronavirus in Georgia


By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service

   A dog has tested positive for coronavirus in Georgia, marking the state’s first case of COVID-19 found in a dog.
    The state Department of Public Health said Wednesday a six-year-old mixed breed was tested for coronavirus after developing a fatal neurological condition. The agency did not say where the dog resided.
    The dog was tested after its owners also tested positive for the virus and was euthanized due to the neurological condition, which was unrelated to COVID-19, according to the agency.
    Pets and wild animals do not pose a significant threat to spreading COVID-19 among humans, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Research is still being done on how easily the virus can spread from humans to animals.

Read more: Dog tests positive for coronavirus in Georgia

Gov. joins health experts encouraging masks in public


Gov. Brian Kemp (left) and Georgia Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey (right) embarked on a statewide tour to promote mask use on July 1, 2020. (Gov. Kemp official Twitter account)

[See our staff editorial this week Wear a Mask -- By Choice]

By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service

Gov. Brian Kemp is holding off on ordering a statewide mandate to wear masks in Georgia as positive cases of coronavirus and hospitalizations are on the rise.

The governor embarked on a six-city tour Wednesday morning to urge Georgians to wear masks, wash hands and keep their distance from each other in public.

But so far, Kemp is not following the lead of several other states and the city of Savannah in ordering people to wear masks, saying Georgians should don facial coverings to protect themselves and others regardless of any official requirements.

“We shouldn’t need a mask mandate for people to do the right thing,” Kemp said at a news conference Wednesday.

Meanwhile, doctors at Emory University and its affiliated hospital pressed for more people to wear masks as the virus gains steam, particularly ahead of the upcoming Fourth of July weekend.

They noted hospitalizations have doubled at Atlanta-based Emory Healthcare over the past week as concerns have soared that local health-care facilities in Georgia could be overwhelmed in the near future without better mask use, personal sanitizing and social distancing.

“I think the best way to show compassion is to wear a mask. If I care, I wear a mask,” said Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean of the Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System.

As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 81,000 people had tested positive in Georgia for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel strain of coronavirus that sparked a global pandemic. It had killed 2,805 Georgians.

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state’s public health commissioner, acknowledged the recent increases in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations as she joined the governor on his “Wear A Mask” tour this week.

She urged Georgians who have tested positive to participate in the state’s contact-tracing efforts amid lackluster interest in some communities for the program, which aims to quickly pinpoint and curb local outbreaks.

“We’re concerned about the upticks,” Toomey said Wednesday. “But we can work together to stop this.”

Kemp also acknowledged the number of hospitalizations – a key marker in assessing the virus’ spread – has crept up in recent weeks following the Memorial Day holiday late last month.

He stressed local hospitals are largely prepared for an influx of hospitalizations due to COVID-19 but that some facilities have sought staffing support from the state.

“Thankfully, [hospitalizations] are not going up exponentially,” Kemp said Wednesday. “It’s worrisome but not alarming at this point. And we don’t want it to get alarming.”

The governor also highlighted a slowdown in deaths caused by the virus, marking an encouraging downward trend that comes even as case counts continue rising.

But Dr. Jonathan Lewin, Emory Healthcare’s chief executive officer, tempered that optimism by cautioning hospitals will likely see deaths go up in the next few weeks as more patients receive treatment.

He also noted hospitals are facing increased numbers of patients who are younger and have slacked off on social distancing measures over the past month.

Lewin, like his Emory colleague Del Rio, urged local leaders Wednesday “to be more forceful” in compelling people to wear masks, highlighting evidence that shows states and cities in the U.S. that require mask-wearing have seen transmission rates decrease.

“From a scientific basis, we feel strongly about that,” Lewin said Wednesday. “If everyone wears a face mask, we can stop the spread of this virus.”

On Wednesday, Savannah became the first major city in Georgia to require that people wear masks in public. Other states including New York, California and Kentucky have also implemented mask mandates.

Kemp said Wednesday he had not talked yet with his legal team about whether to consider overturning Savannah’s mask mandate under his emergency executive powers, which supersede any local rules imposed during the pandemic.

He criticized the outcry from some elected officials and leaders for mask mandates as political distractions.

“The whole mask issue right now, in my opinion, is being over-politicized,” Kemp said. “And that’s not what we should be doing.”

Lewin, of Emory, also dismissed any partisanship involved with masks. He argued universal mask-wearing would bolster both public health and the state’s economic recovery.

“Whatever our elected leaders can do to increase the compliance with masking, whatever our elected leaders can do to decrease the partisanship that’s currently seen around masking, the more likely we are to get through this without seeing more economic damage,” Lewin said.

Over 200 turn out to “Back The Blue”

back the blue

photo/Max Caylor 

A big turnout, with hats off and hands on heart during the National Anthem, thanked law enforcement at a rally Sunday at the courthouse on Main Street. More photos at our e-edition

By Max Caylor

Progress contributor

    Social media posts helped draw over 200 flag waving and sign carrying  citizens to Sunday afternoon’s “Back the Blue” event at the Courthouse.                

     Organizer Klayton Harris said,“after seeing what has happened in Atlanta I wanted the community to come together and support our police.”

Read more: Over 200 turn out to “Back The Blue”

Wrap-up of General Assembly work in 2020 session


Gov. Brian Kemp signs the landmark Hate Crimes Bill passed in the session.

By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service

Georgia lawmakers just wrapped up this year’s wrangling of bills at the state Capitol, managing to push through several pieces of legislation in a hectic two-week period marked by fears over coronavirus.
    Hundreds of bills fell by the wayside as the COVID-19 pandemic rushed into Georgia starting in mid-March. Lawmakers in the General Assembly took a three-month hiatus, then returned earlier this month to pass landmark legislation on hate crimes, a tax on vaping, cuts to standardized tests – and much, much more.
    Below is a roundup of key bills the General Assembly passed before the close of the 2020 legislative session last Friday night:

Read more: Wrap-up of General Assembly work in 2020 session

Chief appraiser explains tax assessment increases

“The market dictates everything,” says Dobbs


By Mark Millican

Progress contributor


Known as the “Gateway to the Mountains,” Pickens County offers tourists and other visitors their first glimpse of scenic north Georgia coming up Highway 515, also known as the Zell Miller Parkway. It's certainly not a news flash, but people shopping for vacation cabins and second homes are also looking around at the forested peaks, valleys and streams.

The continuing influx of buyers looking for stick-built homes and cabins, plus old houses being refurbished and put back into the market, have led to “very vibrant changes” in the assessment of properties, said Chief Appraiser Roy Dobbs.

Read entire story