MONROE, Ga. — Gov. Brian Kemp said he’s asking Georgians to keep up the shelter-in-place rules though the end of the month.
Kemp signed multiple executive orders Wednesday related to the COVID-19 health crisis and announced in a news conference at the state Capitol he is continuing the stay-home order past its original Monday expiration. His actions so far Wednesday:
- Renewing the public health state of emergency — issued March 14 and agreed to by the General Assembly two days later — through May 13.
- Issuing rules for assisted living communities, inpatient hospices, nursing homes and similar facilities to try and halt the spread of the disease, including canceling group activities and visitation, through April 30.
- Suspending short-term vacation rentals in the state between Thursday and April 30.
- Extending an order that calls up the Georgia National Guard, and activating 1,000 more troops, through May 13.
The order on vacation rentals does not apply to properties where a guest will have executed a fully paid reservation agreement prior to midnight Wednesday. It does not include standard or extended-stay hotels.
Kemp said the state’s actions appear to be making a slight difference, although the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase.
As of noon Wednesday, there were 9,901 cases confirmed in the state — 25 of them involving Walton County residents.
Some 1,993 Georgians have been hospitalized and 362 have died. Of the dead, two were from Walton County.
“We cannot take our foot off the gas,” Kemp said. “We’ve got to keep working.”
The Guard has been deployed to several long-term care facilities in the state to mitigate exposure to the coronavirus. Kemp said the Guard has 36 infection control teams and has completed missions at 67 facilities in the last six days.
“These teams have allowed the Guard to assist between 7 (%) and 10% of all our state’s nursing home facilities every day,” he said. “Once we reach 100%, they’ll start over.”
The shelter-in-place order, announced April 1 and in effect since 6 p.m. Friday, will continue under the original rules.
“I want to thank everyone who followed these directives, and I appreciate your patience,” Kemp said.
Kemp also defended his actions that reopened Georgia beaches. He said many videos circulating online show crowds from earlier times, including last Fourth of July.
“Right now, people are behaving,” he said, noting that chairs and coolers are not allowed on beaches.
Kemp signaled support for Georgia farmers, noting that a major customer of locally grown products — schools — has closed and will be until late summer.
“In the coming days, I will make these concerns known to our federal partners and ask them to keep farmers top of mind when crafting a Phase 4 stimulus package,” he said.
Kemp said that as a father to three, the decision to close schools for the remainder of the academic year wasn’t easy. He said state schools Superintendent Richard Woods and the governor’s office soon will launch working groups to develop best practices for schools involving meals, distance learning, facilities and equipment, mental health services and professional learning.
“We will do whatever it takes to support our educators, students and their parents during these challenging times,” Kemp said.