Wednesday afternoon, Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp announced a shelter-in-place order and declared all K-12 schools will shut down for the rest of the school year as the state struggles to cope with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout March, Kemp resisted urges from mayors and city executives to shut down the state, resulting in varying ordinances that often confuse citizens.
“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. ”This action will ensure uniformity across jurisdictions for Georgians sheltering in place and help families and businesses be able to comply with its provisions.”
In a stunning admission Wednesday, Governor Kemp did not know asymptomatic individuals could infect others with the novel Coronavirus.
“[I]ndividuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours,” said Kemp.
According to the Georgia Department of Health, 4,748 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 134 people have died. 1,013 people are hospitalized. Fulton County leads Georgia with 638 confirmed cases and 20 casualties. Dougherty County, home of Albany, has 490 cases with 29 casualties.
Kemp was not the only Republican governor in the South to reverse course Wednesday. Two other governors who had resisted statewide stay-home orders — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves — issued those orders on the same day.
For many teachers, the announcement of schools closing down came as a shock. One teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says “at the start of this, I was excited to be home and catch a break from school and the kids. Three weeks later, this is where we are and I am really concerned for a lot of my students that already did not have the best home life situation or a home at all. School was the only way to escape their reality.”
Parents also felt the shock of Kemp’s announcement.
“I know Governor Kemp did it for the safety of the children and the educational staff, but there will be thousands of working-class people who can’t return to work due to lack of child care,” says Dr. Erin Wilson of Atlanta.” I do not expect economic stability anytime soon.”
As of March 26th, filings for unemployment benefits in Georgia have soared by roughly 400% this week, freezing government web pages, officials said. The most recent public data showed 5,538 Georgia claims filed during the week ending Feb. 29; implying more than 27,000 people requested unemployment benefits in March. Unemployment is expected to surge past the previous high, 10.6%, set in Oct. 2010.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Beltline remains open. While Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms kept the path open during the city’s stay-at-home order, it became a source of consternation as many Atlantans suffering from cabin fever flocked to the Beltline and did not practice the six-feet social distancing measure. According to a social media post, Beltline management responded by saying: “As the primary means of transportation for many in the community, we are continuing to provide a route for these individuals to access essential businesses.”