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Georgia COVID-19 cases reach 420 on Friday, Kemp not ready to shutdown state
Newton County was confirmed to have four cases of COVID-19 as of Friday.
Kemp Addresses COVID-19
Gov. Brian Kemp, with the help of a signer, addresses the media Monday afternoon, March 9, 2020, at the state Capitol in Atlanta on the coronavirus outbreak in Georgia and the state’s response. - photo by Special to The Covington News

COVINGTON, Ga. -- The state of Georgia is up to 420 cases of the novel corona virus and 13 deaths, the state said Friday.

The Georgia Department of Public Health said it now has 420 confirmed cases as of noon Friday in its daily status report. Due to the increased number of cases, GDPH is now releasing a status report at noon and 7 p.m. each day.

Despite the growing number of cases, Gov. Brian Kemp isn’t calling for a statewide quarantine or for bars and restaurants to shut down.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recently ordered the closure of all restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters and other businesses where people congregate within the city limits. Kemp’s decision could change, but as of now he’s leaving it up to local municipalities.

“I am however leaning on the advice of medical professionals and scientists, as well as urging local officials to do what is in the best interest of their communities, to keep communities safe and to stop the spread of the coronavirus,” Kemp said in a press briefing on Thursday. “We are all in this fight together, and together we will emerge stronger than ever.

The number of confirmed cases in Georgia jumped from 287 to 420 across 50 counties between Thursday and Friday and the number of deaths rose from just 10 to 13. Those numbers are expected to continue growing in the coming days.

“I absolutely expect the number of cases to rise of the coming weeks,” Kemp said. "The more we test, the more we're going to find."

Kemp noted that two highly-attended funerals in Albany led to multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 in southwest Georgia.  Kemp continued to urge churches to move services online.

Newton County now has four confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. Rockdale County has one confirmed case while Gwinnett County has gone up to 20 confirmed cases.

Last Sunday, the Newton County School System said one of its employees had tested positive for COVID-19. That worker is an employee of the Newton County Theme School in Covington.

Wednesday evening, NCSS confirmed a second employee had contracted the virus. The second case is a teacher at Clements Middle School who didn’t begin showing symptoms until after schools had closed.

“Because this individual was not present in any of our buildings and did not have any contact with students or staff at the onset of symptoms the Health Department has informed us that the risk of transmission is extremely low for our students and staff,” the school system said in a press release.

The school system has refused to identify either of the employees’ role at their respective school, or the sex of either employee.

The first case in Newton County case prompted a self-quarantine of four Covington firefighters who responded to a call last Wednesday to help load a patient into an ambulance.

The patient had some symptoms associated with COVID-19 and the responding firefighters self-quarantined. However, the DPH said the patient did not apparently need a COVID-19 test and the firefighters broke their isolation.

At about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, DPH officials told Newton County emergency managers and the Covington Fire Department a patient from the assist call in fact did test positive for COVID-19.

The state Health Department recommended 10 days of quarantine for the four firefighters who were the primary responders on the call.

The city said none of the firefighters have shown signs of the virus.

Newton County officials have not released any info on the fourth case inside the county.

Walton County still has no confirmed cases of COVID-19, but an employee of Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas Inc. tested positive for the virus earlier in the week. That employee had been in self quarantine since March 11 when he started experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Craig Fisher, a senior vice president for the company, said the employee had called off sick from work since March 11 and notified Hitachi on Monday of the positive test for COVID-19.

“This employee seems to be coping well and is at home resting and recovering,” Fisher said.

He said the worker helped to identify co-workers with whom he or she might have come in contact.

“None of these employees reported any symptoms, but following our internal guidelines, we have placed them all on quarantine at home and advised them to immediately contact their personal physician for possible treatment and testing,” Fisher said. “Our plant nurse will monitor their progress closely.”

Hitachi employs 900 people at its plant at the corner of U.S. 78 and Unisia Drive in Monroe at the Piedmont Regional Industrial Park.

Fulton County still has the most reported cases with 79 followed by Cobb County with 45 and Bartow with 40. Dekalb (35) and Dougherty (38) also have more than 30 confirmed cases.

The state says of the 420 cases identified, 74% of patients are 18 and up, but only 33% are 60 and older. There are still 25% of cases where the age of the patient is unknown.

13 people have now died in Georgia due to the virus. A 67-year old man with underlying health conditions was the state’s first death.