On April 24, as more than 25,000 Americans continued to test positive for COVID-19 each day, Georgia became the first U.S. state to initiate the fraught process known as “reopening.”
First it allowed hair salons, gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys to resume operations. Dine-in restaurants and movie theaters followed a few days later.
Today much of the state is open for business, under guidelines including a 6-foot social distancing rule.
The move was controversial, to say the least. In the New York Times, Keren Landman, an Atlanta-based physician, epidemiologist and journalist, accused Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of potentially “setting us up for a punishing new wave of infections” by volunteering Georgia as “the nation’s canary in this particularly terrifying coal mine.”
Even President Trump said he “disagree[d] strongly with [Kemp’s] decision.”
But now 26 days have passed since the state started to reopen — and that punishing new wave of infections has not materialized. In fact, according to a database maintained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Georgia’s rolling seven-day average of new daily cases — an important metric that helps to balance out daily fluctuations in reporting — has fallen for three weeks in a row.
Those figures are undisputed — despite a clumsy effort by state officials to present the data in a way that made them look even better. And they are a lot better than the experience in two other states that are moving to end lockdowns, Florida and Texas.
For the seven-day period ending on May 4, Georgia’s daily average stood at 746 cases.
By May 11, the average had fallen 12.6 percent to 652 daily cases.
By May 18, it had dropped to 612 cases, a further decline of 6.1 percent.
At the same time, Georgia’s seven-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations fell from 1,432 on May 4, to 1,239 on May 11, to 1,049 on May 18 — a three-week decline of 26.7 percent.