Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a shelter-in-place order Thursday in an effort to fight COVID-19. The order will go into effect at 6 p.m. Friday and lasts until 11:59 p.m. April 13.
The order requires Georgia residents and visitors to stay home with some exceptions, such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking medical services or exercising outdoors.
It closes gyms, fitness centers, live performance venues, bowling alleys, theaters and bars, among other establishments. It outlines how businesses deemed “critical infrastructure” by the Department of Homeland Security and non-critical businesses shall implement measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.
It restricts non-critical businesses to minimum basic operations, defined as activities that maintain the value of a business or allow employees to work remotely.
The order also prohibits county governments or municipalities from enforcing coronavirus-related orders or ordinances that conflict with Kemp’s.
Kemp announced Wednesday K-12 public schools will close for the school year, but online learning will continue.
In an email to the Clarke County School District community, interim superintendent Xernona Thomas acknowledged the recent difficult weeks and asked for parents' patience as they work to address Kemp’s mandate.
“I recognize how challenging the past weeks have been – the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing all of us to make adjustments every day. We are working on how to address the many issues we face due to Governor Kemp’s mandate to close school through the end of the year,” Thomas said in the email.
Kemp said the decisions to close schools and order people to shelter in place came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced people can become infected and begin to spread COVID-19 earlier than previously thought, even without symptoms.
“From a public health standpoint, this is a revelation and a game changer,” Kemp said.
However, public health officials have expressed concern for months over transmission of COVID-19 by people with no symptoms. CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN in February that asymptomatic transmission of the virus was “possible and concerning” based on evidence he had from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
He said the decision will aid hospitals, medical providers and help to prepare for the patient surge ahead. New models show Georgia will need more time to prepare for the hospital surge capacity, and the state has to become more aggressive, Kemp said.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, said since the first two confirmed cases in Georgia were announced, the transmission of the new coronavirus transitioned from “what was related to travel” to widespread community transmission.
Toomey added that 1 in 4 people with the coronavirus don’t realize they have contracted the virus because they lack symptoms. Toomey said there are investigations into outbreaks in 47 long-term facility centers across Georgia, outbreaks in prisons, at least five known outbreaks related to church gatherings and others related to funerals.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the time the order goes in to effect. The Red & Black regrets this error, and it has since been fixed.