Georgia’s governor said Monday that he was ordering all bars and nightclubs around the state to close because of the coronavirus.
The order will take effect at noon on Tuesday and last for just under two weeks, Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference. He said the state would also ban gatherings of 10 or more people unless people could maintain 6 feet (1.83 meters) of distance. The Department of Public Health would have the authority to shut down businesses that don’t comply.
“I would ask for everyone’s cooperation over the next two weeks,” he said. He said the measures would “protect the medically fragile, mitigate potential exposure in public venues and allow the state to ramp up emergency preparedness efforts as cases increase in each region.”
Kemp had previously ordered schools to close but has refrained from taking stronger steps. Individual counties in Georgia have placed restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
Kemp’s announcement came as the number of cases of the virus in the state rose to 772. The death toll remained at 25.
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ATLANTA (AP) — Individual counties in Georgia continued to place restrictions on businesses and gatherings on Monday, as cases of the new coronavirus increased.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered schools shut but has refrained from taking stronger steps like ordering restaurants and nonessential businesses to close. Instead, he has left those decisions to local governments.
By noon Monday, confirmed cases in the state rose to 772, up from the 620 cases the state was reporting Sunday, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The death toll remained at 25.
Metro Atlanta’s DeKalb County, which has 75 confirmed cases, is the latest county to order restrictions aimed at helping to slow the spread of the virus.
DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond issued an executive order Monday that prohibits gatherings of 10 or more people, closes playgrounds and asks all residents to shelter in place “as much as possible.” Beginning Tuesday, the order stipulates that restaurants and bars are prohibited from having dine–in service and businesses like bowling alleys, nail salons and barbers are limited to a maximum occupancy of 10 people.
Kemp and Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey are set to hold a news conference about the virus at 5 p.m. Monday. Kemp also joined several other governors in sending a letter to leaders in Congress asking that they approve additional funding to states in the form of block grants to fight the virus.
DeKalb joins several counties including Athens–Clarke County, home to the University of Georgia, as well as hard–hit Dougherty County in southwest Georgia in implementing restrictions.
Dougherty County, where Albany is the county seat, continues to have the worst confirmed infection rate statewide. Its 64 cases are more than 10 times the positive rate statewide. Other counties with high infection rates include Bartow County in northwest Georgia and Lee County, a suburban neighbor of Dougherty County.
On Sunday, the mayor and county commission chairman issued an executive order making the conditions of a shelter–in–place order there more stringent, including requiring essential businesses like grocery stores not to exceed 50% occupancy.
Albany Mayor Bo Dorough said during a news conference Monday that surrounding counties need to take similar precautions.
“County lines are really nothing more than a place in the sand,” Dorough said. “This virus is totally indifferent to county boundaries. So if people are coming into Albany to shop and to work, there have to be precautions taken in our surrounding counties.”
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.
Of the dead, the youngest two were 42 and the oldest two were 85, with an average age of 66, according to Department of Public Health records. Dougherty County has recorded six deaths, while Cobb County has five. No other county has more than two.
As the virus outbreak escalates in Georgia and the U.S., the executive overseeing Georgia’s seaports said Monday he’s still hopeful a drop in cargo volumes is just a short–term “blip” that will end by May. Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said cargo containers moving through the Port of Savannah appear to be down about 20% compared to last March. That’s because fewer imports are coming from China after the virus forced manufacturers to shut down.
Cargo shipped from Asia is already starting to rebound, Lynch said. But now he’s watching U.S. retailers. If stores are closed for extended periods and their inventories pile up, Lynch said, “we may not see the impact of that until the summertime.”
Meanwhile, at least four members of the Georgia state Senate have now tested positive after Republican Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharettabecame the first to do so last week. Republican Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick of Marietta, Republican Sen. Bruce Thompson of White and Democratic Sen. Nikema Williams of Atlanta have announced positive diagnoses. Williams is also the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.
Thompson said he was released from Northside Cherokee hospital on Sunday after a period in the intensive care unit. “While I am feeling much better, I plan to remain at home in self–quarantine for the immediate future,” Thompson wrote on Facebook.