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COVID-19 spread at Georgia universities could erase gains made in the state: White House task force

Currently, Georgia remains in the "red zone" for cases, with the twelfth-highest rate in the country.

ATLANTA — The White House coronavirus task force has released its latest report on the state of the pandemic in Georgia and has a stark warning for colleges and universities: increase testing among students to ensure the spread of COVID-19 is contained. 

According to the report, dated from Sept. 6, Georgia is seeing an overall decrease in new cases and test positivity from the last week, but the report warned that that progress needs to continue to "ensure no reversal of hard-fought gains."

"Georgia is making progress and, to sustain the gains, should continue the strong mitigation efforts statewide and strengthen mitigation efforts in university towns to decrease spread from universities to the local community," the report recommended.

RELATED: UGA professors call for college to go fully virtual after COVID-19 surge

It further recommended reducing the hours and limiting the occupancy at bars and restaurants in university counties and other places where university and college students gather.

Read the full report

Across the nation, colleges and universities are having to grapple with outbreaks on campus, with some universities taking drastic measures to quarantine the whole student body and suspending in-person learning. That, too, could soon be a reality for Georgia schools, the report warned.

RELATED: Georgia colleges get 'incomplete' on tracking COVID-19 cases

"We are seeing gains being reversed in other states due to university spread," the report said. "Georgia universities need to increase testing and isolation to prevent spread from students to local communities and hometowns. This includes detecting asymptomatic students and preventing silent spread of disease through routine saliva testing on university research platforms."

Key to that, the report said, is ensure there are quick turnaround times for test results and "rapid isolation of cases and quarantine of contacts." Confirmed cases and their contacts should not be sent home to isolate or quarantine, the task force reiterated. The task force also recommended involving student leaders and student media to spread the message of following recommendations.

RELATED: College students report feeling lonely, isolated after returning to campus

As of this latest report, Fulton, Gwinnett and Cobb account for the highest number of new cases, but cases are rising in Clarke - home to the University of Georgia - Hall and Cherokee counties, "and this spread must be contained," the report said.

Currently, Georgia remains in the "red zone" for cases, with the twelfth-highest rate in the country.

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information.

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information.