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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp spoke at the UGA College Republicans meeting in the Zell B. Miller Learning Center in Athens, Georgia on Wednesday, October 16, 2019. (Photo/Jason Born)

Gov. Brian Kemp provided an update on the COVID-19 outbreak in the state and addressed severe weather damage across Georgia during an April 13 press conference.

Kemp said Georgia should continue expanding its testing capacity. More than 57,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 in Georgia. with 13,621 positive tests, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

“Despite our partnerships and undeniable progress, our testing numbers in Georgia continue to lag,” Kemp said. “As I’ve said before, the status quo is unacceptable.”

Kemp said, at DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey’s direction, the testing criteria have expanded to include symptomatic “critical infrastructure” workers and asymptomatic individuals who have been in direct contact with COVID-19 patients and their family members. People with chronic health conditions, first responders, healthcare workers, law enforcement and people at long-term care facilities are also prioritized for testing, Kemp said.

Kemp said the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta will be converted to a temporary hospital with 200 beds as a precautionary measure to reach hospital capacities.

Kemp also discussed the efforts in containing the spread of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities. The Georgia National Guard has deployed 60 infection control teams to clean 229 facilities, Kemp said in the conference.

PruittHealth-Grandview is the only long-term care facility with confirmed COVID-19 cases in Athens. Last week, WSB-TV first reported the death of 10 patients who tested presumed positive for COVID-19 at the facility. The National Guard was deployed to sanitize the facility.

Enforcement of Georgia’s anti-mask statute, which says people wearing a mask, hood or anything that obstructs a person’s identity are guilty of a misdemeanor. has been suspended after Kemp signed an executive order, following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s updated guidelines advising people to wear masks.

Kemp said the peak of Georgia’s COVID-19 outbreak is expected on April 26, according to the model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Severe weather and tornadoes in parts of Georgia overnight Sunday caused eight fatalities across north Georgia, WSB-TV reported, and seven of the fatalities were in Murray County in northwest Georgia. Kemp visited Murray County on Monday morning to assess the damages. Kemp signed an executive order for a state of emergency on Monday to allocate resources and services to affected areas.

“Many of those Georgians are already suffering from being out of work due to the COVID-19 virus, and now they have literally lost everything that they owned,” Kemp said. “But I will tell you they are strong-willed people.”

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