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|2020 coronavirus pandemic in Georgia|
|Location||Georgia, United States|
|First outbreak||Wuhan, China via Milan, Italy|
|Arrival date||March 2, 2020 (1 month and 1 day ago)|
|Confirmed cases||5,348 (as of April 2, 2020[update])|
|163 (as of April 2, 2020[update])|
The 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic was first detected in the U.S. state of Georgia on March 2, 2020; the state's first death came ten days later on March 12. Governor Brian Kemp on March 23 banned gatherings of over 10 people, ordered bars and nightclubs to close, and issued a shelter-in-place order for the "medically fragile". Kemp previously declared an "unprecedented" public health emergency on March 14 and ordered on March 16 that all public schools, colleges, and universities in the state close from March 18 through the start of April. COVID-19 was first detected in a prison inmate on March 20.
On March 23, Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed a 14-day stay-at-home order to direct all city residents to stay at home except for performing essential tasks through April 7. This followed a city-wide state of emergency on March 15 "[prohibiting] large public gatherings of more than 250 people" and a March 20 order for businesses to close. The city of South Fulton instituted a curfew on March 17, requiring residents to stay at home from 6:00 PM to 7:00 AM (with work and medical exceptions) and barring gatherings of more than ten people. On March 23, DeKalb County enacted a "voluntary curfew". Savannah issued a shelter-in-place order on March 24.
One of the hot-spots in the state for the coronavirus is Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, located in Albany in southwest Georgia, where as of March 20, 57 tests have come back positive, four patients have died, and six hospital workers have been infected. The hospital also received media attention after CEO Scott Steiner said they exhausted five months of medical supplies in just six days, experienced price gouging from medical suppliers, and had plans for staff workers to manually sew respiratory masks. In response, Albany and surrounding Dougherty County declared a shelter-in-place order lasting two weeks on March 20.
On March 8, Governor Brian Kemp announced that a number of Americans on the cruise ship Grand Princess — including 34 Georgians — would be "securely transferred" to Dobbins Air Reserve Base for testing and quarantine on March 9 or 10. That night, Kemp said four currently hospitalized Georgians had been tested for COVID-19, with the Georgia Department of Public Health waiting for confirmation from the CDC; one person was a resident of Cherokee County, two were residents of Cobb County, and one a resident of Fulton County.
On March 10, the Department of Public Health reported five additional cases, bringing the state total to 22. The majority of cases were in Cobb County (7 cases) and Fulton County (6 cases). On March 11, the state announced nine more cases, making the total 31 presumed, with twelve confirmed.
On March 12, the state of Georgia reported its first death related to the pandemic, according to a statement from the governor's office. A dining facility worker at Moody Air Force Base, near Valdosta, tested positive for the virus, prompting temporary closure of the facility for cleaning.
Emory University became the first college in the state to close its campus and move classes online for the remainder of the semester. The University System of Georgia announced that its 26 public institutions would remain open based on the current advice of the Georgia Department of Public Health. Three hours later the decision was reversed and the University System of Georgia has temporarily suspended instruction for two weeks starting on March 16. On March 14, Gwinnett Technical College decided to close both of its campuses from March 16 through March 22, after announcing on March 13 that from March 23, to resume all currently 100% online courses as usual, and to convert all other courses to online instruction where possible.
Also on March 12, 2020 many school districts in the state of Georgia made the decision to cancel classes for at least two weeks, such as Cobb County School District, who had an elementary school teacher test positive for the coronavirus.
On April 1, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp ordered that all K-12 schools close through the end of the 2019–20 academic year. School districts will continue to educate students remotely. State officials have delayed the high-stakes testing that guides much of the instruction and are expecting approval from the federal government to scrap the tests altogether.
|Athens–Clarke County||Yes||March 19, 2020|
|Atlanta||Yes||Yes||March 23, 2020|
|Cobb County||Yes||March 24, 2020||April 15, 2020|
|DeKalb County||Yes||Yes||March 28, 2020||indefinite|
|Dougherty County||Yes||March 20, 2020|
|Effingham County||Yes||March 26, 2020|
|Gwinnett County||Yes||March 28, 2020||April 13, 2020|
|Savannah||Yes||Yes||March 24, 2020||April 8, 2020|
|South Fulton||Yes||March 17, 2020|
All state lawmakers and their staff members were urged to self-quarantine on March 18 after state Senator Brandon Beach tested positive. Beach had displayed symptoms for nearly a week, and despite knowing his coronavirus test was pending, he went to work at the state capitol on March 16 when emergency legislation was passed. Beach explained in an interview that he "was cleared to go back to normal duties" and added that "[i]n no way, shape or form would [he] ever intentionally expose anyone". Governor Kemp, who was also potentially exposed, said he would not self-quarantine or be tested because his time around others was "severely limited" and he "never interacted with any legislators".
Kemp has faced criticism that his efforts to stop the virus' spread are not forceful enough. In a primetime television "town hall" on March 26 — jointly broadcast by WSB-TV, 11Alive, Fox 5, Georgia Public Broadcasting, Telemundo Atlanta, Univision 34, and CBS46, as well as over 140 state radio stations — Kemp appeared with members of the state coronavirus task force, including Atlanta mayor Bottoms, DPH commissioner Kathleen Toomey, Georgia Emergency Management Agency director Homer Bryson, and Georgia Insurance and Safety Fire commissioner John King.
On March 28, Governor Kemp's top aide Tim Fleming said on social media that "[t]he media and some in the medical profession are peddling these doomsday models and projections... This has in turn resulted in people panicking and local governments across our state overreacting. As a result of their overreach, many small businesses will struggle and some will not reopen." Around the same time, Atlanta mayor Bottoms warned that city hospitals were projected to be "filled beyond capacity" by May 3, and Toomey said the situation would "get much worse".
On March 9, Governor Kemp announced the preparation of Hard Labor Creek State Park, located in Morgan County, as a quarantine destination for diagnosed individuals "without other options". On March 10, a coronavirus patient from Cherokee County, who did not need hospitalization but lacked adequate quarantine conditions at home, became the first to be relocated to the park; he was released on March 15. A second person arrived on March 17. Georgia stopped using this location on March 24.
A second quarantine site was constructed at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, Monroe County. The area houses twenty trailers with room for up to 40 patients. This site opened on March 24, replacing the old site.
The Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) suspended visitations and announced additional sanitation measures, but the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that inmates had seen no extra soap. A prison worker was confirmed to have the coronavirus on March 18 — the DOC, citing "security and HIPAA restrictions", declined to name the affected prison. The first detected case on COVID-19 in a prison inmate was at Lee State Prison two days later, on March 20.
The Department of Public Health (DPH) releases daily coronavirus statistics, including the number of confirmed cases, deaths, positive tests, and total tests, as well as breakdowns by age, sex, and county. DPH recently began releasing numbers twice a day at 12:00 pm and 7:00 pm, and starting on March 24 included the number of hospitalizations. On March 27, the DPH updated the state map on its website. The DPH does not release figures regarding its backlog of tests, a measure that other states have taken.
|Laboratory||Positive tests||Total tests|
|Georgia Public Health Laboratory||360||2,100|
In addition to Atlanta, the cities of Brookhaven, Clarkston, Sandy Springs and Dunwoody have approved plans to ban dine-in service at restaurants. Clarkston also banned gatherings of more than ten people. South Fulton on March 17 instituted a curfew from 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM, with work and medical exceptions.
DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond declared a state of emergency on March 23 and later issued a stay-at-home order effective from March 28 and to last indefinitely. The order does not affect cities within DeKalb County, but the order "invites all of the cities to adopt this Order so that the [r]ules within all of DeKalb County are uniform".
The city of Savannah declared a state of emergency on March 19 and mayor Van Johnson issued a stay-at-home order on March 24, effective through April 8. Johnson said that the order was "necessary and prudent to enhance and escalate our action plan to minimize the exposure of Savannahians to this virus".
Congress has so far debated and enacted three bills meant to help the nation respond to the pandemic: the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (signed March 6), the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (signed March 18), and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (signed March 27).
Representatives Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk voted against the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Hice told reporters that the House was "not given the opportunity to even read the legislation before [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi forced a vote, and no cost estimate had been prepared," and also falsely claimed that the law would repeal the Hyde Amendment, calling it "par for the course for the left, the activist left".
Representative John Lewis did not vote on the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Act or on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act; Representative David Scott did not vote on the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Act; and Representative Tom Graves did not vote on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Senator Loeffler, after a private briefing on the coronavirus from the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on January 24, 2020, began to offload various stocks — by February 14, she had sold between $1.2 million and $3.1 million worth of holdings. These actions attracted widespread condemnation — Democratic Senate contender Raphael Warnock called her actions "unconscionable", US Representative Doug Collins said he was "sickened just thinking about it", and Georgia Speaker David Ralston said he was "absolutely worried about the down-ticket damage".
On February 28 Loeffler said on Twitter that "Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on [coronavirus] readiness".
Six Flags Over Georgia announced that the theme park would close temporarily from March 13 to April 1. Emory Healthcare announced the postponement of "all inpatient and outpatient elective surgical and procedural cases" starting on March 16. Furry Weekend Atlanta, a furry convention held in Atlanta, announced that the 2020 iteration of the convention scheduled for May had been cancelled in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Other attractions in Atlanta that have closed temporarily include the Children's Museum of Atlanta, the World of Coca-Cola, the College Football Hall of Fame, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Georgia Aquarium, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, and Zoo Atlanta.
In an effort to reduce exposure between bus drivers and riders, MARTA starting requiring passengers to use the rear door. Since the fare box is at the front near the driver, MARTA stopped collecting fares on buses.
By the end of March, ridership on trains had fallen 67% and bus ridership dropped by 55% compared with the previous month, reflecting national trends. A coalition of public transportation systems across the country — MARTA, along with Bay Area Rapid Transit, the Chicago Transit Authority, Dallas Area Rapid Transit, King County Metro, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, NJ Transit, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — requested at least $25 billion in relief from the federal government.
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation announced on March 20 that it would donate $5 million to an Atlanta coronavirus fund set up by United Way of Greater Atlanta and Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, in addition to $400,000 in other grants for non-profits in Georgia and Montana.
Georgia's Democratic presidential primary elections were originally scheduled for March 24, 2020, but they were moved to May 19. On March 24, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that all registered voters would receive absentee ballot request forms in the mail. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston wanted to further postpone the election to at least June 23, but Raffensperger insisted the May date would proceed, saying that his plan "keeps the integrity of the vote, while also prioritizing the health and safety of Georgia voters".
On March 10, state senator Brandon Beach started showing symptoms of COVID-19 and was tested on March 14. However, he attended a special session of the legislature on March 16 before his test results arrived on March 18 showing that he had tested positive. The entire Georgia state senate, their staffs, and Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan went into quarantine until March 30.
Most of the state's sports teams were affected. Several leagues began postponing or suspending their seasons starting March 12. Major League Baseball cancelled the remainder of spring training on that date, and on March 16, they announced that the season will be postponed indefinitely, after the recommendations from the CDC to restrict events of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, affecting the Atlanta Braves. Also on March 12, the National Basketball Association announced the season would be suspended for 30 days, affecting the Atlanta Hawks.
The NCAA also cancelled all of its remaining tournaments for the academic year, including the 2020 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament — whose semi-finals and championship game were originally to be hosted by Atlanta.
The touring production of Hamilton, originally scheduled to play at the Fox Theatre in April, moved its dates to August 4 — September 5, causing a production of Ain't Too Proud to be moved to later in the season and for a concert by Blackberry Smoke with The Wild Feathers and an appearance from Iliza Shlesinger to be postponed.
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