Georgia to issue shelter-in-place order amid coronavirus outbreak

GEORGIA — As cases of the new coronavirus increase, a statewide shelter-in-place order will go into effect beginning Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday at a news conference. He also moved the remainder of this school semester for K-12 public schools to digital learning.

“Over the past 48 hours, modeling and data has dramatically changed for Georgia,” Kemp said. “The CDC announced that those who are infected with coronavirus could begin spreading it earlier than thought, even with no symptoms. New models show Georgia will need more time to prepare for a hospital surge capacity.”

The statewide shelter-in-place order will be in place from Friday through April 13. This date is in line with the state’s public health emergency order. While Kemp didn’t give specifics, in other states and Fulton County similar orders mean gatherings are banned, residents should only shop for essential goods, and outdoor exercise should be done while maintaining a safe social distance.

“We are working to keep our citizens healthy and protected in every ZIP code across our state,” Kemp said. “We are taking action to protect our hospitals and help our medical providers to prepare for the patient surge that we know is coming. This action will ensure uniformity across jurisdictions in Georgia to shelter in place, and help families and businesses comply with these provisions.”

After an initial closure of all schools until March 31, Kemp extended the closure of all public schools in Georgia through April 24, and now has closed schools through the end of this school year. All classes will be finished through virtual learning only.

Georgia’s older students will also not return to the classroom after the University System of Georgia announced March 16 night that all 26 institutions will move to online instruction for all courses for the remainder of the semester, with extremely limited exceptions.

Students are not allowed to return to campus until they receive permission from their institution, which will be forthcoming soon.

Additionally, residence halls will be closed, with minimal exceptions for students unable to return home, or who cannot find housing elsewhere. Students will receive specific instructions from campus leaders regarding when they will be allowed to return to campus to retrieve their belongings from residence halls. Students must follow those instructions. For those students who are unable to depart campus, we will make every effort to accommodate these students.

University System of Georgia will be providing guidance to campuses on refunds for housing, dining, and other services. Students should wait for their campus to contact them.

Institutions will remain open, with minimal staff physically on-site, to ensure continuity of certain services.

In the end, we want to ensure that our faculty, staff and students are safe; that we do our part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia; and that we fulfill our mission to graduate our students even in the face of these challenging times.

Kemp’s office has not released specifics on what new restrictions will be added by the shelter-in-place order.

In other states, a shelter-in-place order typically means residents can only leave their home for essential tasks, such as to buy food and pharmaceuticals. Residents can participate in individual exercise, such as taking a walk, but should stay at least six feet apart from anyone they encounter.

Fulton County enacted a shelter-in-place order earlier Wednesday, including that anyone who violates the Fulton County Board of Health‘s coronavirus stay-at-home order may face up to a year in jail or up to a $1,000 fine upon conviction.

According to the order, residents may leave home for essential activities to ensure the health and safety of themselves, their families or their pets. Outdoor activity like walking or running is allowed as long as social distancing is maintained.

All public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes above. Nothing in the order prohibits the gathering of members of a household or living unit.

The order will remain in place until rescinded.

New numbers released at noon Wednesday show that 31 more people have died of coronavirus in Georgia, the Georgia Department of Public Health said. The updated tally reflects an increase of more than 800 cases since noon on Tuesday, bringing the total to 4,638, and 31 additional deaths, bringing the total to 139. There are currently 952 people hospitalized from the new coronavirus.

The Georgia National Guard will be deployed over the next few weeks to help at nursing homes and assisted living facilities with cases of the coronavirus. Kemp and Georgia National Guard Adjutant General Tom Carden will deploy 100 Georgia Guard members, reports WSB.

Troops will be sent to set locations with orders to implement infection control protocols and enhanced sanitation methods.

Pelham Parkway Nursing Home in Mitchell County will receive 20 soldiers. They left Tuesday to audit existing sanitation methods, train staff on using more-aggressive infectious disease control measures, and thoroughly clean the facility.

In Albany, Phoebe-Putney Memorial Hospital said that 44 National Guard members were sent there.

Kemp emphasized that the state of Georgia and the University System of Georgia united for a laboratory testing surge to provide 3,000 coronavirus tests daily.

Kemp said the laboratory surge capacity plan will quickly increase the availability of polymerase chain reaction testing for COVID-19 in Georgia. This initiative leverages the collective laboratory resources under the University System of Georgia, Georgia Public Health Laboratory, and Emory University.

The ramp-up of laboratory testing surge capacity began Tuesday. Upon implementation, labs will process over 3,000 samples per day.

Kemp said the state expects that this plan will lead to greater testing capacity and more insight into the number of positive cases in the state.

As of noon Wednesday, there have been 139 deaths from the coronavirus in Georgia, and nearly 1,000 hospitalized by the virus.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Fulton County’s 624 cases are the most of any Georgia locality. The next highest totals are 480 in Dougherty County, DeKalb with 365 cases, Cobb with 293 cases, Gwinnett with 250 cases, Bartow with 144 cases, Carroll with 131 cases and Clayton with 122 cases.

Of those counties, Dougherty has the most deaths in the state with 27. Fulton has had 19 deaths, Cobb had 15, Lee has had seven, Clarke had five, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Bartow, Cherokee, Fayette, and Houston each had four, Clayton had three, and Henry, Douglas, Coweta, Terrell, Rockdale, Floyd, Sumter, Chatham, and Barrow each had two deaths.

More than 921,900 COVID-19 cases were confirmed worldwide and more than 46,200 people have died, Johns Hopkins reported Wednesday afternoon. The U.S. has over 206,200 cases, the most of any country as of Wednesday.

Over 4,540 deaths had been tied to the virus in the United States as of Wednesday afternoon. New York City has seen the most deaths from coronavirus, with more than 1,130 people dying from the virus.