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Morning headlines: COVID transmission in Athens falls

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Athens Clarke County is no longer under a mask mandate, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention downgraded the community's risk of COVID-19 transmission from "high" to "medium."

Because the county's mask mandate is tied to CDC reporting, the ACC Government is no longer requiring masks in government buildings or on public transportation.

The CDC considers three categories when determining a community's risk level: New COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 in the past 7 days, the percent of inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days.

The CDC data report is updated weekly. For more information, visit www.accgov.com/coronavirus

Judge rules changes needed in PSC elections

A federal judge ruled Friday that Georgia’s statewide election of its five public service commissioners illegally dilutes Black voting power, and ordered state elections officials not to prepare ballots for two races that had been scheduled in November.

While the state has five PSC districts, each member is elected statewide, a process that ensures some geographic diversity on the commission. The PSC regulates Georgia Power and other utilities.

Friday's ruling by U.S. District Judge Steven Grimberg, if it stands, would mean that state lawmakers would have to draw single-member districts for the PSC. An election would be held later.

Higher federal courts have shown significant skepticism about Voting Rights Act litigation in recent years, and the state could appeal. Georgia’s attorney general says he’s reviewing the decision.

Warnock, Ossoff join with Senate Democrats to pass sweeping anti-inflation bill

Georgia U.S. Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff voted with their party to deliver a victory for President Joe Biden, as the U.S. Senate approved a health care, tax and climate change package by the narrowest of margins - 51 to 50. Vice President Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote.

Warnock said he was thrilled Democrats were finally able to pass what he called a "historic, once-in-a-generation investment in our country’s future."

Both Warnock and Ossoff joined with all other Democrats to ward off a series of Republican amendments, as the Senate stayed in session for over 27 straight hours to approve a cornerstone of the Biden agenda.

Alexia Ridley joined WUGA as Television and Radio News Anchor and Reporter in 2013. When WUGA TV concluded operations, she became the primary Reporter for WUGA Radio. Alexia came to Athens from Macon where she served as the News Director and show host for WGXA TV. She's a career journalist and Savannah native hailing from the University of Michigan. However, Alexia considers herself an honorary UGA DAWG!