Dianne Yost News

By Dianne Lively Yost & Capitol Beat Reporter Beau Evans

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced today at a 4 p.m. press conference held outside at Liberty Plaza at the Georgia State Capitol that he plans to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order that will go in effect from Friday, April 3 until April 13. Gov. Kemp also is issuing an order today that closes Georgia K-12 schools for the remainder of the school year, keeping online learning.

On Thursday, Kemp will sign the shelter in place order, and he is planning to sign the order to close schools late Wednesday afternoon.

“New models show Georgia will need more time to prepare for hospital surge capacity, and while we are making excellent progress with our team, we have got to be more aggressive,” Kemp said.

As of 5 p.m. today, Georgia has a total of 4,638 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus, including two confirmed cases in Morgan County. Of those infected, 952 have been hospitalized and 139 Georgians have died. No deaths from COVID-19 have been confirmed in Morgan County.

“To mitigate the risk, Georgians must stay home,” said Kemp.

Today, Madison-based Mannington Mills issued a press release confirming that an associate, who does not live in Morgan County but works in the Madison plant, had tested positive for COVID-19.

“New models show Georgia will need more time to prepare for hospital surge capacity, and while we are making excellent progress with our team, we have got to be more aggressive,” Kemp said.

“When hard working Georgians limit their travel, limit their interactions with others and limit their activities, they are buying us time to get additional hospital beds ready, order supplies and continue to prepare for more positive cases.  All of know this fight is won at the community level – not at the State Capitol behind us. To win this war, we’ve got to hunker down and continue to chop a lot of wood,” he said.

Capitol Beat reported that the governor said information from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people can spread the virus before showing any symptoms marked “a game changer.” It was at that point he decided to issue a shelter-in-place order.

As of this morning, we had 3,520 medical surgical beds, 450 beds, and 1006 ventilators available in our hospitals across the state.

“We are taking action to protect our hospitals, to help our medical providers and prepare for the patient surge that we know is coming,” Kemp said. “Now is the time to fight and continue to be strong and courageous.”

“According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, Georgia will reach peak hospital capacity on April 23. That’s nearly three weeks from today. This model assumes that Georgians continue to abide by state orders and use social distancing methods through end of May,” said Kemp.

Kemp said he would sign and publish an executive order Thursday that will include a wide range of provisions for the shelter-in-place rules, including for deputizing law enforcement personnel to enforce the order. The order will also likely exempt some industry sectors like grocery stores, pharmacies and medical supply providers.

“We’re going to have a lot of information in this order,” Kemp said.

Several hospitals, particularly in hard-hit areas in the northwest and southern parts of the state, have already been taxed with an influx of patients in recent weeks as the virus took root in Georgia.

On top of hospitals filling up, state health officials are aware of 47 elderly care facilities that have experienced outbreaks of coronavirus, said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state public health commissioner. Seniors and chronically ill persons are most at risk from deadly health effects from the virus.

Earlier this week, the governor authorized around 100 Georgia National Guard members to prop up operations at long-term senior care facilities where cases of coronavirus have been confirmed.

Also, health officials have identified at least five outbreaks stemming from church gatherings plus more outbreaks connected to funerals, Toomey said. She cautioned that any situation in which people congregate now “can be a potential site for transmission.”

Toomey echoed Kemp’s point that a statewide shelter-in-place order now will help hospitals endure a surge of patients expected as this month progresses.

“Now is the time to stop that transmission before the hospitals get overrun,” Toomey said.

“This is absolutely not just like the flu,” she added. “It’s many times more transmissible, and it’s much more deadly.”

Kemp cautioned that with schools closed and people staying home instead of working, state officials and local hospitals are seeing an increase in cases of domestic violence.

And hundreds of thousands of people, suddenly out of jobs or with their work hours severely cut, are “facing financial ruin because of this virus,” Kemp said.

“We will continue to do whatever it takes to help keep our families safe and ensure a strong and prosperous future,” Kemp said.
The governor’s shelter-in-place order follows mounting pressure from health experts and politicians from both parties who have called for a statewide approach. Up to this point, Kemp has largely deferred to city and county authorities to decide whether to issue stay-at-home orders for their areas.
Speaking Wednesday, Kemp acknowledged that many people in Georgia have been voluntarily isolating themselves from social gatherings but that formal rules “vary by city and county.” He said those who defy orders to stay at home and avoid crowds present a danger to the public.
“The reality is that if you do not comply, you are violating the law and you will be facing stiff penalties,” Kemp said. “Even worse, you are literally endangering the lives of those around you, your loved ones and fellow Georgians.”
Facing unprecedented times, the governor urged people in Georgia not to panic and make a run on groceries. He stressed that supply chains for food and other necessities should remain unbroken.
“I want to encourage my fellow Georgians to hang in there,” Kemp said. “We must first overcome the obstacles we have in our path. By doing this, we will get through this together.”

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