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New federal ban on evictions could have far-reaching impacts in metro Atlanta

By J.D. Capelouto, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

“We’ll see. We’re all still working through it,” Cassandra Kirk, Fulton County’s chief Magistrate judge, said Wednesday morning during a discussion hosted by the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum.

The new order, announced Tuesday, was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under its public health powers, stating that an eviction moratorium could help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The rules cover tenants facing eviction due to non-payment of rent through the end of the year.

ExploreTrump directs CDC to ban coronavirus-related evictions through 2020

To qualify for the protections, renters must provide a declaration that they:

Have lost “substantial” income during the pandemic;

Expect to make no more than $99,000 in 2020 or qualified to receive a stimulus check;

Are making their “best efforts” to make partial rent payments and get government assistance;

And that an eviction would force them into homelessness.

According to the CDC’s agency order, criminal penalties could be imposed on landlords who violate the ban.

“It should have the effect of really stopping most of the evictions that we anticipated seeing,” said Charles Bliss, the director of advocacy for Atlanta Legal Aid Society, adding that renters can still be evicted for reasons other than not paying their rent.

When the moratorium expires, those protected under the guidelines will still have to make up rental payments they missed, the CDC said.

“If people are still getting their rent piled up … then you’re looking at evictions that are happening in January and February,” said Monica DeLancy, a tenants’ rights advocate in Cobb County. “That’s my concern, that’s the concern for some of the families I’ve been talking to.”

Michael Lucas with the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation said during the forum that eviction moratoriums “really buy us time to get this right.” He and other housing advocates called for more direct housing assistance for renters, because the CDC’s new order does not come with additional federal funds to help people stay in their homes.

“The flood is just building up stronger behind the dam,” Lucas said. “The courts will have an even more unimaginable tsunami coming in 2021.”

The Atlanta Apartment Association is also pushing for more direct rental relief for tenants. Otherwise, some landlords could unfairly face financial hardship, said Stephen Davis, the director of government affairs for the association.

“If you happen to have a property that is experiencing a large amount of tenants not paying their rent, then you yourself are in a financial burden,” Davis said.

Doug Bibby, the president of the National Multifamily Housing Council, said the organization is disappointed that no new federal funding was tied to the order.

“An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents,” Bibby said in a statement.

Davis mentioned the city of Atlanta’s new $22 million rental relief program, which will be administered by United Way of Greater Atlanta, as an example of what local governments can do to help residents. The money will ensure more than 6,700 city residents who have lost income due to the pandemic can receive assistance with past due rent, utility or security deposits up to a household limit of $3,000.

Several area counties have also launched their own programs to provide rent relief to people in need.

ExploreEviction hearings quietly resuming across metro Atlanta

Thousands of evictions have been filed in metro Atlanta since the pandemic began, though most cases have sat idle since courts shut down and put eviction hearings on hold. Last month, courts in metro Atlanta began resuming some eviction cases, beginning with those filed before the pandemic.

Last week alone, over 1,500 evictions were filed across Fulton, DeKalb, Cobb, Gwinnett and Clayton counties, according to a new tracker created by researchers at the Atlanta Regional Commission, Georgia Tech and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. It was the busiest week for filings since mid-March, when the pandemic began.

It’s still unclear exactly how local courts will handle the new federal order, and how it will affect pending cases, though Bliss said nothing in the order specifically excludes pending cases from being eligible.

Kirk said she plans to discuss the order with a council of other Georgia magistrate judges to come up with a plan.

“We have until Friday,” she said, which is when the order is expected to go into effect.

In the meantime, Cobb County’s Chief Magistrate Judge Brendan Murphy told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that his court has temporarily put a hold on eviction hearings that concern non-payment of rent, pending a “thorough review” of the 37-page CDC document.

“As the order requires tenants to keep paying rent and actively seek rental assistance, we will continue to find ways to bring landlords, tenants, and non-profits together to facilitate settlements that will keep tenants in their homes and see that landlords are paid,” Murphy said Wednesday.

The moratorium is broader than an earlier eviction ban passed by Congress in March as part of a massive economic rescue package, which only applied to federally financed rental units and recently expired.

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Henry County Schools considering in-person classes

By Leon Stafford, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Henry County Schools is offering the option of in-person learning for its students — assuming the number of coronavirus cases do not dramatically increase.

Beginning Sept. 28, students whose last names begin with the letters A through M can go to school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, while those whose last names begin with the letters N through Z can go on Thursdays and Fridays.

Parents have to make a decision about whether to allow their children to return to brick-and-mortar classrooms by Sept. 14. 

The Sept. 28 return is part of a four-phase plan Henry County Schools is devising as coronavirus infection numbers begin to stabilize in the south metro Atlanta community, allowing the district to inch toward a more traditional school day.

“We planned for two different scenarios from the start,” Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis said in a press release. “Our scenario one did include the hybrid model of allowing families to choose either on-campus or remote learning for their child, but scenario two was a full remote start for all students based on the instance of unfavorable health metrics or government orders.

“The health metrics dictated that move back in July, but improving health metrics are allowing us to responsibly consider going back to the hybrid model,” she said.

The phased plan includes:

Phase 1: students and their families decide by Sept. 14 preference for hybrid model of partial in-person classes or remaining all virtual.

Phase 2: In-person hybrid model begins Sept. 28.

Phase 3: Elementary and middle schoolers who want in-person instruction five days a week may do so beginning Oct. 5 while high schoolers remain on hybrid schedule.

The fourth phases would allow all students who want in-person classes to return to brick-and-mortar buildings five days a week. The district said the date for such a move has not yet been determined.

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Judge declines to dismiss DeKalb County voter purge lawsuit

By Tyler Estep – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

A federal judge has declined to dismiss a lawsuit accusing DeKalb County officials of illegally removing dozens of voters from its rolls.

Judge Eleanor Ross denied this week the county’s motion to dismiss the suit, which was filed in February by lawyers representing the Georgia NAACP and the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda. It accuses the DeKalb County Board of Registration and Elections of “purging” more than 50 registered voters between December 2018 and November 2019, thanks in part to a policy that allow residents to challenge the registration of a voter if they believe they are no longer living at their registered address.

The suit claims that DeKalb violated the National Voting Rights Act by immediately removing voters because their residency was challenged and a notice mailed to them was returned as undeliverable or not returned at all. It also mentions the cancellation of seven voters who used the address of a mental health center in Decatur when they registered to vote, claiming that county discriminated against voters residing in transitional housing or non-traditional residences.

Lawyers for the elections board and county elections supervisor Erica Hamilton had argued that the officials were immune from being sued. They also contended that the groups who filed the suit did not have standing to do so.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, Ross disagreed and allowed the lawsuit to proceed.

Attorneys for the elections officials named in the suit now have two weeks to file an answer to the allegations.

“Today’s victory is important to ensuring that voters in DeKalb County, Georgia will be provided an equal opportunity to vote and that challenges to voter eligibility will be conducted pursuant to federal law,” Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a news release.

That group and lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Voting Rights Project are representing the plaintiffs in the case.

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Board picks transit projects for possible state funding

By David Wickert, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

A regional board has recommended nine transit projects for possible state funding next year.

The list includes several bus rapid transit lines, the rehabilitation of MARTA stations and tracks, the construction of new park-and-ride lots and other projects sprinkled across metro Atlanta.

At a time of tight budgets, there’s no guarantee the state funding will come. But the project list could set the stage for perennial state support at a time when metro Atlanta is poised for a transit construction boom.

The list was approved by the Atlanta-Region Transit Link Authority, which oversees transit planning and funding in a 13-county region. The General Assembly created the board two years ago as part of legislation that also allows local governments to raise sales taxes to pay for transit expansion. Gwinnett County voters will consider a transit sales tax in November, while Cobb, DeKalb and Fultoncounties are considering their own transit expansion plans.

Though local funding will be key to any expansion, transit supporters have long sought state funding for public transportation. The regional authority — known as the ATL Board for short — is charged with recommending projects for possible inclusion in the state’s annual bond package.

The ATL Board unveiled a list of nine projects last month and discussed narrowing it down to three or four. But on Thursday it unanimously agreed to forward the full list of nine projects.

The projects include MARTA’s proposed Capitol Avenue/Summerhill bus rapid transit line in Atlanta — the first such project in the region. It also includes bus rapid transit projects in Clayton County and along the top half of the Perimeter.

The list includes rehabilitation of existing MARTA tracks and stations and two new park-and-ride lots along Ga. 316 in Gwinnett County. And it includes three Cobb County projects: technology to give buses priority at traffic signals; a Cumberland transfer center; and construction of sidewalks, curbs and ramps for the disabled along local bus routes.

The list now goes to Gov. Brian Kemp and the General Assembly. They will decide which of the projects — if any — make the final cut for state funding next year.

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With Fall On The Way, Consider Intermittent Fasting To Banish Those Pandemic Pounds

#atlanta-ga 

With the fall season fast approaching, Atlantans are starting to see photos of colder weather comfort food popping up everywhere. Pumpkin spice everything will soon be here!

But along with those crisp cool days and colder nighttime temperatures comes a natural desire to eat more calorie rich, savory foods and sweets. And that, for many of us, can spell trouble in the form of unwanted weight gain.

Along with the additional stress and subsequent emotional eating brought about by the lingering pandemic, many people have not shed the pounds they usually do during the summer months. This, plus the additional weight most people put on during the winter months can be a recipe for disaster!

Our Hometown Hustle editor spoke recently with Ellen Britt, who in addition to two decades of medical experience as a PA (Physician Assistant), also holds a Masters in Clinical Psychology and a Doctorate (Ed.D.) in Biology. Dr. Britt is an expert on the topic of intermittent fasting, sometimes known as time restricted eating.

She has been practicing daily intermittent fasting for over two years and has lost (and kept off!) over 35 pounds, which you can see from her before and after photo here, has made a huge difference in her life and health. Dr. Britt also coaches and consults with groups and individuals who want to bring a regular intermittent fasting practice into their lives. 



 

Like many people, we just couldn’t imagine going hours and hours without food, so we asked Ellen just how difficult it is to get started. “First of all, intermittent fasting is not so much about what you eat as it is about when you eat it,” she explains. “Having said that, you can’t go out and eat three double cheeseburgers and chocolate cake everyday and expect to lose weight!”

She went on to say, “Intermittent fasting is NOT a diet, but a way of life. You don’t count calories but you eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. IF can be combined with any other food program that you like, from the Mediterranean diet to plant based, to keto to even Weight Watchers. The point is to eat as healthily as possible.”

We also asked Ellen to give us beginners a way to get going with IF. “Most people start out with what is known as a 16:8 pattern, which means fasting for 16 hours (including your sleep!) and eating your food over 8 hours. For most people this means simply delaying your first meal, perhaps until 11 am or so.”

“During your fast it’s important to drink on plain water, or black coffee or tea, unflavored and unsweetened. Flavors and sweeteners are out, even if they have no calories, as they can trick the body into thinking food is on the way and cause it to store fat.”

As Ellen also points out, IF is now widely widely accepted by the mainstream medical community as a safe and effective way to lose weight and keep it off. IF’s other benefits include prevention of Type Two diabetes as well as a reduction in your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and possibly even dementia.

Dr. Britt has a thriving free 1800 member Facebook group where you can get lots more information and support. Even though the group was begun for entrepreneurs who were interested in intermittent fasting, you don’t have to be a business owner to join. Just click here to check it out!













 

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Cobb schools reviewing teacher’s social media post on Black man shot by police

By Kristal Dixon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

The Cobb County School District is reviewing whether a Lassiter High School teacher violated district policies with a social media post she made about Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The district’s Human Resources Department has been made aware of the post made last week by Carol Doemel, the orchestra director at Lassiter High School, a system spokesperson said.

“We expect every employee to treat everyone with dignity, respect, and empathy, both in person and online,” the school district said.

The Facebook post allegedly written by Doemel was forwarded to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but was not viewable to the public on Tuesday. In the post, Doemel repeated allegations that Blake was accused of crimes and resisted arrest before he was shot by police.

“…People are upset about the police having to shoot this criminal?” according to a screenshot of the post. “And of course, it makes perfect sense to burn businesses, attack people, (and) torch the cars at a car dealership.”

Doemel declined to comment on the post for the AJC.

The Associated Press has debunked similar statements about Blake. According to the AP, online court records show that Kenosha County prosecutors charged Blake with sexual assault, trespassing and disorderly conduct in connection with domestic abuse on July 6. An arrest warrant was issued on July 7. The felony warrant filed in the case has since been vacated, CNN.comreported.

The shooting left the 29-year-old father of six paralyzed from the waist down, and led to protests and violence in the city. Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old white teenager, was charged Thursday in the fatal shooting of two protesters and the wounding of a third in Kenosha.

According to the Lassiter High School Orchestra website, Doemel has a bachelor’s degree in music performance from Florida State University, a master’s in music performance from Georgia State University and a post-baccalaureate degree in string education. She has been with the Lassiter program since 1993.

Jennifer Floyd, a former Cobb County educator who shared the screenshot of the controversial Facebook post with the AJC, said she was made aware of the post last week by another teacher. Floyd, a former orchestra program director at McEachern High School, said she was “hurt” by the post because she often collaborated with Doemel in the classroom.

“This post just hit so differently because it was just spewed hatred,” she said.

Floyd said she believes Doemel, who is white, should no longer be in the classroom because the feelings she has about Blake could impact her ability to teach Black students and interact with Black colleagues.

“As educators, there’s no way you can have this much disdain and go to the classroom and not have that same energy,” she said.

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Gwinnett leaders reject call to send absentee ballot applications

By Arielle Kass, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Gwinnett County commissioners Tuesday rejected requests to spend nearly $3 million to make absentee voting easier for residents.

The county’s Board of Registration and Elections asked the government to spend $2.4 million to send absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters in the county, a number they expected could reach 600,000 people.

The board also requested county commissioners spend about $516,000 to pay for return postage on absentee ballots in the county.

Commissioners rejected each proposal in a 3-2 vote, with Republicans voting against the measures and Democrats voting for them. The elected officials did not discuss the reasons for their votes.

John Mangano, the nonpartisan chair of the elections board, said he had hoped commissioners would approve the measures, which were passed by his board with 4-1 votes.

“I’m disappointed, but in a way, I’m not surprised,” he said.

Penny Poole, president of the Gwinnett NAACP, said the decision not to send ballot applications or pay for return postage shows commissioners “do not represent the people that live here.”

“We knew this would happen,” she said.

Poole said advocacy groups have already been sending ballot applications to residents. Additionally, the state has created an online portal for people to apply for ballots. An absentee ballot, Mangano said, is “not that hard to get a hold of.”

While the return postage won’t be paid, the county will add 15 ballot drop boxes at library locations, in addition to the seven that were available beginning this spring.

Kristi Royston, Gwinnett’s elections supervisor, said there were already more than 75,000 requests for absentee ballots by the end of the day Monday. The county is also processing about 20,000 new voter registrations.

Georgia’s secretary of state is handling absentee ballot applications for all counties in Georgia through mid-September. The lone exception is Gwinnett — where ballots are required to be in English and Spanish and are larger than normal.

The secretary of state’s office doesn’t plan to give Gwinnett state money to mail or process their large ballots, but they are talking about potential solutions, such as finding ways to reduce the size of the ballot.

The county has had some trouble finding a vendor to send its absentee ballots, in part because the dual-language ballot requires a larger size envelope. Mangano said he thinks a vendor has been identified.

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Alpharetta executive to enter Lottery Industry Hall of Fame

By Adrianne Murchison, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

An executive at Scientific Games International in Alpharetta where scratch-off instant tickets are produced will be inducted into the Lottery Industry Hall of Fame.

Scientific Games is the Georgia Lottery’s biggest supplier of tickets. 

Pat McHugh, an executive vice president and lottery chief executive, is based at the lottery division headquarters of Scientific Games in Alpharetta and works in global operations. The north Fulton location manufactures a variety of lottery tickets. Alpharetta is also where designers huddle to create new games, software and hardware systems are developed and analytics are studied, McHugh said.

Lottery game purchases have remained steady during the pandemic, McHugh said.

The Milton resident was voted into the Lottery Industry Hall of Fame by 88 members of the Public Gaming Research Institute. The organization states that its mission is to work with public policymakers who support government-sponsored gaming. The Public Gaming Research Institute held its first ceremony in 2005. This year’s ceremony will induct six executives Oct. 14.

McHugh joined Scientific Games in 2006. The Massachusetts native said he started working in the industry in the 1990s and helped to launch the Georgia Lottery while working at a different supplier.

“I traveled the world for years putting in lottery systems,” he said.

Scientific Games provides games, technology and services for 150 lotteries in 50 countries. A company statement cites the $310 billion industry as being larger than the film and music industry combined.

McHugh said Scientific Games is the largest manufacturer of instant scratch-off games with more than 70% of retail sales.

“We are incredibly proud of Pat and all he has accomplished,” said Barry Cottle, CEO of Scientific Games in a statement.

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Amazon marks completion of massive new Gwinnett facility

By Amanda C. Coyne, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Gov. Brian Kemp and Gwinnett County leaders marked the completion of a massive new Amazon distribution facility near Stone Mountain on Tuesday.

The 700,000-square-foot warehouse near U.S. 78 is the first Amazon distribution center in Georgia to utilize state-of-the-art robotics technology, said Rob Packett, Amazon’s director of operations. The facility is also expected to create 1,000 jobs, from workers on the warehouse floor to employees managing finances and technology.

“From advanced manufacturing to leading-edge cyber innovation, we are proud to work with job creators to secure mutual success and a brighter future for Georgia,” said Kemp, who used the occasion to announce Georgia had once again been ranked the top state to do business by Area Development magazine, a niche business publication.

After the Tuesday afternoon announcement, Kemp toured the recently completed facility. Amazon officials showed the governor a sprawling mechanized section of the building designed for robots to easily navigate thousands of yellow storage units. Whirring blue wheeled robotic “drive units” rumbled along the grey floor, carrying stacks of storage “pods” and using bar codes plastered along the route to navigate.

On the ground floor, gleaming metal conveyor belts carved elevated winding paths where products will be channeled to waiting delivery trucks. A short walk away, a yellow robotic arm stood ready to sort hundreds of items an hour. Employees will work with the cutting-edge technology to process thousands of packages each day.

The new facility is expected to be up and running before the holiday season, according to Amazon. It has not yet begun operations.

Amazon is hiring for the new facility now. Warehouse workers can earn between $15 and $17.50 an hour. Those hired for warehouse positions also have the opportunity to get free on-the-job training in operating powered industrial trucks. Jobs for the Stone Mountain facility are listed on amazon.jobs.

Those positions were a key reason Gwinnett worked to bring Amazon into the county, Board of Commissioners Chairman Charlotte Nash said.

“We want to make sure there are good jobs available for people who need those jobs,” Nash said.

The project was approved by Gwinnett County commissioners in July 2018, before the county knew for sure which company was planning on using the space, though Amazon was heavily suspected. Nearly a year later, it was publicly revealed that Amazon would occupy the facility previously known publicly only as “Project Rocket.” State documents released in 2019 indicate Amazon could invest up to $200 million in the property.

The project has had ripple effects in the surrounding area. Gwinnett commissioners approved a $2.17 million contract last year to upgrade the roads leading to the facility, adding turn lanes, sidewalks and traffic lights.

“Amazon’s presence in Georgia means more than just great jobs with great benefits within these four walls,” Packett said.

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Experts: viral report on COVID-19 toll flawed

By Ariel Hart – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

A flawed news report on CDC death counts from COVID-19 whipped through social media Monday, seized on by thousands who thought the data revealed a truth they had long suspected: that nearly all people counted as dying of COVID-19 were actually sick with something else to begin with.

Only, that wasn’t the truth. Experts say the news headlines and posts attributing almost all deaths to underlying conditions were based on a faulty read of the CDC data.

That didn’t stop the social media engine. An anti-vaccination filmmaker garnered thousands of likes upon tweeting the misleading story, saying that if people were surprised, then they hadn’t been paying attention to his TV show. A Florida state representative claimed the story was blacked out by a “corrupt media.”

Texas State Senator Bob Hall, recognizing the public decisions at stake, posted, “With this announcement all of the defensive measures (masks, lockdowns, and isolations) are totally unnecessary and should end immediately!”

The CDC data can be difficult to understand. “The CDC is just kind of putting out the raw information, the raw data,” said Dr. James Gill, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Yale, and Connecticut’s chief medical examiner. “But it really does need interpretation.”

The inaccurate accounts also stemmed from overlooking how widespread chronic conditions are, and from mistakes that doctors, medical examiners and coroners make in filling out the CDC’s death forms in the first place, experts said.

Gill likened it to a victim who dies of a gunshot wound to the heart resulting in cardiac arrest, and people claiming, “‘Well there was a contributing condition, it wasn’t purely from the gunshot wound.’

“No, of course it was from the gunshot wound to the heart,” Gill said. “They’re kind of fouling up.”

A viral idea

The news stories that mischaracterized the data, mostly from television station websites and briefly online by the AJC, garnered attention across the country. The headlines said that 94% of people recorded as dead from COVID-19 had an underlying or contributing medical condition.

The stories and other accounts were based on a statement in the CDC’s weekly COVID-19 data updates. The Atlanta-based agency reported that 6% of COVID-19 death certificates listed only the virus as the cause of death.

That percentage, which has held steady, represents only around 10,000 of the more than 180,000 Americans who have died of COVID-19.

Some took that as the disease’s true toll.

One who ran with that number was a Twitter user whose profile allied with the QAnon conspiracy theory. The tweet concluded that “only 6%” of recorded COVID-19 victims “actually died from Covid.”

President Trump retweeted that post.

Twitter later deleted the original Tweet as misinformation. But Trump continued to push the theory, the Washington Post noted, retweeting an article that concluded, “So let’s get this straight — based on the recommendation of doctors Fauci and Birx the US shut down the entire economy based on 9,000 American deaths due entirely to the China coronavirus?”

Cause and effect

The CDC’s statement and its spreadsheet show something different.

The institution’s spreadsheet, it says, “shows the types of health conditions and contributing causes mentioned in conjunction with deaths involving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”

The long list of conditions and contributing causes do include chronic illnesses, such as hypertension or diabetes. But they include more.

Sometimes, what some read as contributing conditions were actually the ways that COVID-19 killed a person. For example, the condition of cardiac arrest, when the heart stopped beating. Or respiratory arrest, where the lungs stopped breathing.

Those shouldn’t even be listed as causes of death, CDC officials said in a webinar, and they’re working to educate those who certify death certificates to stop writing them in that field.

Then there are conditions that are permitted to be listed as causes—but all may fall in one lethal chain of events leading to the death.

For example, COVID-19 may cause pneumonia, an infection where the person’s lungs get inflamed and may fill with fluid. That may lead to Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, where the person has severe difficulty breathing. Then the person may die because of completely losing the ability to breathe.

In that case the COVID-19, the pneumonia and the ARDS are all causes of death, but COVID-19 is the one that caused the others.

A population with conditions

Death certificates listing multiple causes of death also reflect the widespread existence of chronic conditions among Americans.

People with diabetes, obesity and asthma are more susceptible to the new coronavirus and may be more likely to die from it.

And they’re not a marginal slice of the country. More than 40% of Americans are obese. One-third have hypertension. Eight percent have asthma. More than 1 in 10 have diabetes.

In fact, some COVID-19 deaths were probably undercounted because they were attributed to other causes, particularly at the beginning of the pandemic when testing for the virus was not widespread, said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Georgia’s commissioner of public health.

“This virus does masquerade as a lot of different things,” Toomey said. “And if you have underlying conditions, be it obesity or diabetes, renal disease, heart disease, you are more likely to have complications and potentially die or have long-term adverse outcomes.”

Some social media posts on the data suggested lifting public restrictions for all but those with chronic conditions. Gill demurred.

“There are vulnerable people working in post offices, in grocery stores,” he said. “You’re going to have every person who’s obese lock themselves away? You’re going to have everyone who’s got diabetes lock themselves away? Everyone who has asthma lock themselves away? Everyone who’s over 60 lock themselves away? You know, you just can’t do it.”