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Coronavirus oversight panel demands documents from Georgia, GOP congressman calls it harassment

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question from the press during a tour of a massive temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Atlanta.

(The Center Square) – As Gov. Brian Kemp’s current executive order on COVID-19 restrictions nears its end, the chairman of a Congressional coronavirus oversight committee has demanded that Kemp produce information about the state’s compliance with White House recommendations.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., chairman of the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, sent a letter to Kemp Wednesday asking him to comply with protective measures in a private report prepared by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

“I am writing to request information about the private guidance the administration has provided to Georgia and whether you plan to implement those recommendations and take other critical actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus across the state,” Clyburn said.

Georgia is one of 21 states designated as coronavirus “red zones,” or states that have seen a spike in cases or test positivity rates.

The report directs red zone states to impose face mask mandates, close bars and gyms and require social distancing.

Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., who serves on the coronavirus crisis subcommittee, said Clyburn’s letter is harrassment and a partisan attack on Kemp and other Republican governors.

Clyburn only sent letters to four of the 21 red zone states: Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee, which are all governed by Republicans.

Green sent a letter to Clyburn Wednesday, demanding that he rescind the requests.

“Why have you not requested the same documents from Democrat-led states with an explosion of cases, such as California, or states that have botched their response like New York?” Green asked. “Your letters today reek of partisanship. It is wrong to capitalize on a pandemic by playing political games.”

Georgia is in the red zone because health officials have reported more than 100 new cases per 100,000 population last week, a positivity rate above 10 percent, and has reported “widespread community spread without evidence of improvement,” according to the letter.

Clyburn is demanding that Kemp implement a mask mandate, increase outdoor dining, close bars, reduce indoor dining capacity and social gathering limits and shutter gyms in hot spots.

Kemp’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The governor’s executive order, which expires Monday, does not require all Georgians to wear masks. It also prohibits local governments from making face coverings mandatory.

Restaurants are allowed to continue indoor dining at full capacity, while bars and gyms can operate at limited capacity.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Public Health has reported a total of 182,286 COVID-19 cases in the state, including 3,671 deaths. Nearly 11 percent of tests are returning positive for COVID-19.

Critical care and inpatient hospital beds are nearing capacity with 13 percent and 18 percent of beds available respectively throughout the state. Forty-seven percent of emergency room beds were still available Thursday.

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