Shelter order extended

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Governor says stay at home until April 30

  • The Hartwell Sun
    The Hartwell Sun
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The statewide shelter-in-place order, originally set to expire on April 13, is extended to April 30 as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to five in Hart County this week and the death toll statewide surpassed more than 500.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced last week he would extend the statewide shelter-in-place order, leaving bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys and an assortment of entertainment venues closed along with dining rooms at restaurants.

Neighboring Franklin County reached five confirmed cases this week and Elbert hit six as the number of cases in Madison County jumped to 12. Confirmed cases in Stephens County nearly doubled from last week’s 13 cases to 24 this week.

Testing in Northeast Georgia is ramping up, District 2 Public Health spokesperson Dave Palmer said in a statement this week, to meet the governor’s call for increased testing. 

“This is made possible by additional testing supplies, increased laboratory capacity and expanded testing criteria,” Palmer said.

So far, more than 61,000 Georgians have been tested for COVID-19, either through commercial labs or the state’s lab, and more than 14,000 of those tests came back positive. More than 2,800 people who tested positive have been hospitalized.

The criteria to receive a test is changing as well. For people who are showing symptoms, the new testing guidelines include administering tests to health-care workers, first responders, and other critical infrastructure workers; people residing in long-term care facilities or other group residential settings; people 65 years old or older; patients with underlying medical conditions; people with close contact with a known COVID-19 case and household members or caregivers of any of the groups listed. For people not showing symptoms, the new guidelines will allow testing as capacity allows for healthcare workers, first responders and other critical infrastructure workers who have been exposed to COVID-19 and residents of a long-term care facility or other group residential setting experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19.

If a person meets any of these conditions, they can call their local health department and ask to speak to a nurse about COVID-19 testing, Palmer said. The nurse will then review the patient’s situation and submit the information for verification. The Department of Public Health will then call the patient back to arrange an appointment at the site nearest to the patient.

Kemp said Monday that local and federal officials are working to increase the supply of hospital beds, on top of tests, as Georgia prepares for the peak surge which experts predict will come May 1. The Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta is being equipped with 200 intensive care “pods” to help combat the projected surge in patients.

FIRST RESPONDERS

First responders will now be more informed when dispatched to calls as the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, in collaboration with the GDPH, will begin to provide a list of COVID-19 cases in each jurisdiction to 911 centers this week. Each 911 center will receive daily COVID-19 case lists from the GDPH reporting system with the newest addresses of COVID-19 positive patients in their jurisdiction. Only the address will be shared with 911 centers, according to a statement from Kemp’s office, to ensure confidentiality of the patients. If a 911 call comes from a listed address within a 21-day period of the patient being potentially infectious, responding personnel including EMS, firefighters and law enforcement will be alerted of the presence of a patient with COVID-19 at that address. First responders are still being urged to take precautions on calls, regardless of whether the address has been flagged or not.

PRIMARY ELECTION

The state’s primary election, originally scheduled for May 19, is postponed until June 9 due to health and safety concerns over the virus, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced last week. Early voting for the primary now starts May 18. Voter registration will end May 11. 

Absentee ballot applications are being sent to every active Georgia voter and requests for mail-in ballots already sent in will still be valid to receive an absentee ballot for the June 9 election, according to a statement from Raffensperger’s office.

Though, this has sparked controversy with the Georgia Democratic Party who is pushing for election officials to send absentee ballots to every voter and pay for postage ahead of the delayed June 9 primary. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Black Voters Matter against the secretary of state’s office, challenging the constitutionality of requiring voters to buy postage stamps when submitting mail-in absentee ballots and mailing in absentee ballot applications, according to the ACLU. The group argues that making voters pay for postage is an unconstitutional poll tax. 

UNEMPLOYMENT

Unemployment continues to skyrocket as the Georgia Department of Labor announced last week they processed more claims in a seven-day period than they did in the entire year of 2019. The agency processed 390,132 claims during the week of March 29 through April 4, more than three times what was processed the week before, according to the GDOL. Most of the claims were from workers in the accommodation and food industries, the agency said.

There were 14,578 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Georgia, according to the GDPH’s daily status report as of Tuesday night, and 2,858 of those patients have been hospitalized. The DPH reports 524 Georgians have died from COVID-19.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects Georgia’s peak hospital resource use will come on May 1. The research institute predicts Georgia will face a shortage of 218 ICU beds, but no shortage of regular hospital beds. The group also predicts the number of deaths per day in Georgia will fall dramatically during the month of May and eventually taper off to one death per day by mid-June.