Georgia reports decline in COVID-19 cases
Gov. Brian Kemp announced the first phase of Georgia businesses that will reopen to the public beginning this Friday, April 24.
Kemp said it’s time to begin putting the economy back on track by easing the state’s mandated restrictions due to COVID-19. His announcement has drawn both, praise from those who agree with him, and criticism from those who fear the pandemic will become more widespread.
“In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus’ spread, today, we are announcing plans to incrementally – and safely – reopen sectors of our economy,” Kemp said at his 4 p.m. press conference today.
Kemp said the decision to ease restrictions was based on medical advice and reports from health officials. The Department of Public Health, he said, reported that the number of COVID-19 cases has flattened and appear to be declining.
“As of noon today, we now have 18,947 COVID-19 cases in Georgia with 733 deaths. The state lab has processed 5,362 tests, and commercial vendors have processed 78,966 tests. We understand that these are more than just numbers. These are Georgians. These are families and communities impacted. Our prayers remain with the victims and their loved ones. We lift up those who are battling this terrible virus. We remain focused on the safety and well-being of every person who calls Georgia home,” Kemp said.
Kemp said the first phase of reopening to begin on Friday, April 24, include barbershops, salons, cosmetologists, nail care artists, estheticians and their respective schools, tattoo and massage parlors, fitness centers and bowling alleys.
In-dining restaurants and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27, while houses of worship are asked to continue to comply with social distancing orders, if they choose to open. Nightclubs, bars and amusement parks, and live entertainment venues, however, will remain shut down.
Georgia’s shelter in place order is effective through April 30. The “medically fragile” should remain at home through May 13, the governor said.
Kemp said more hospitals would soon be able to resume elective surgeries.
“The entities that I am reopening are not reopening for ‘business as usual.’ Each of these entities will be subject to specific restrictions, including adherence to Minimum Basic Operations, social distancing, and regular sanitation. Minimum Basic Operations includes, but is not limited to, screening workers for fever and respiratory illness, enhancing workplace sanitation, wearing masks and gloves if appropriate, separating workspaces by at least six feet, teleworking where at all possible, and implementing staggered shifts,” Kemp said.
Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikema Williams said Kemp’s recommendation goes against the expert advice of medical professionals who warn that Georgia’s coronavirus crisis is “far from over.”
“Without enough testing, without enough supplies for doctors and nurses, and without listening to medical professionals, the governor’s actions today will make this crisis even worse and put more Georgians at risk,” Williams said. “Now is the time to listen to the health providers and public health experts who tell us what we need to keep our communities safe. I urge all Georgians to listen to the advice of their health care providers and stay home — even if their governor won’t.”
The Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) released the following statement :
“Our thoughts and prayers are with all those directly impacted by COVID-19, including Georgians who are mourning lost loved ones,” said Buzz Brockway, vice president of Public Policy for GCO. “We applaud Gov. Kemp for laying the groundwork today for the reopening of Georgia’s economy in a way that protects health and safety. During this time, it’s crucial that state and local governments invite the input of business leaders on the best ways to reopen, in a way where consumer confidence is restored and people feel safe patronizing businesses again. We believe that collaboration with neighboring states will be an essential step in restarting the economy as well. Ultimately, we’re confident that we can protect our vulnerable citizens while reopening large portions of our economy so that Georgia can get back to work.”
Kemp said that last week, the White House issued guidelines for states to begin to safely reopen the nation’s economy.
“Informed by the Coronavirus Task Force and public health officials, ‘Opening Up America Again’ includes three phases to safely reopen and get folks back to work. To initiate Phase One, a state must meet a series of basic criteria, which can be tailored to reflect specific circumstances for a regional or statewide approach. For weeks now, our state has taken targeted action to prevent, detect, and address the spread of coronavirus by leveraging data and advice from health officials in the public and private sectors. Thanks to this methodical approach and the millions of Georgians who have worked diligently to slow the spread of coronavirus, we are on track to meet the gating criteria for Phase One,” Kemp said.
Kemp said testing expansions and the statewide rollout of a self-reporting app by Google called “MTX where” will help health officials monitor and track the virus.
“In addition, the Georgia National Guard will mobilize ten new strike teams to deploy to hotspots and long-term care facilities to administer 1,500 tests per day. Testing expansions through Augusta University and the Guard will complement existing initiatives, including the Department of Public Health’s capacity, Georgia Tech’s CVS testing site, and private labs. As I’ve said before, testing defines the battlefield and informs our long-term strategy. These efforts significantly increase our capacity as we take measured steps forward,” Kemp said.