A White House task force report warns that the coronavirus spread in Georgia is “widespread and expanding” and “strongly recommends” a statewide mask mandate, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which obtained the report.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp was to sign a new order Saturday that would allow local governments to mandate masks, but only on their publicly-owned property, not at private businesses.

“My new Executive Order will protect property rights for all hardworking Georgians,” Kemp tweeted Friday.

Although Georgia remains without a statewide mask mandate, the governor on Saturday said residents are urged to wear face coverings and take other precautions.

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“To keep moving in the right direction, we are urging all Georgians to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash their hands, and follow guidance” from the Georgia Department of Public Health, Kemp tweeted.

The Aug. 9 task force report also urged leaders in Georgia to close down bars, night clubs and gyms in high-risk counties to help stop the viral spread, the Journal-Constitution reported.

The number of coronavirus cases in Georgia shot up to nearly 235,200 on Saturday, making it the fifth-highest after California, Florida, Texas and New York.

The rise in new cases has declined slightly over the past two weeks, but the state has seen an uptick in coronavirus deaths, according to an NBC News tally. Nearly 4,700 people in Georgia have been killed by the virus, according to state data.

Against this backdrop, the state reopened many of its schools for in-person learning. In Cherokee County, where students returned to school last week, there are now at least 110 confirmed coronavirus cases, resulting in over 1,600 students and staff in quarantine.

Georgia reported its youngest coronavirus fatality, a 7-year-old boy, as schools were reopening last week. On Saturday, a 15-year-old became the second-youngest person reported to have died from COVID-19 in the state. Both boys had no underlying health conditions, according to the state Department of Public Health.

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More schools around the country are expected to reopen for in-person learning, while the national count of coronavirus cases has surpassed 5.3 million, with nearly 170,000 deaths.

In New York City, the nation’s largest school district plans to reopen with a nurse in every school building.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that the state recorded its lowest number of coronavirus hospitalizations since March 17. Hospitalizations have dropped to 523 in the state, Cuomo said.

New York confirmed 734 new coronavirus cases Friday, bringing its statewide total to 424,901, and reported just five new deaths.

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