Georgia Coronavirus Updates: Governor Opens State Beaches, Tybee Mayor Calls It 'Reckless Mandate'
There are 6,742 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in at least 149 of Georgia’s 159 counties with 219 reported deaths as of 7 p.m. Sunday. Georgia also now lists age, gender and location for those who have died as a result of coronavirus.
More than 27,000 tests have been performed by state and commercial labs. At least 1,296 people have been hospitalized.
In Albany alone, there have been 1,320 positive test results and 45 reported deaths with more than 550 patients still awaiting results as of 1:08 p.m. Sunday. 272 patients have recovered according to Phoebe Health.
Here is the latest coronavirus news for Sunday, April 5, 2020.
Coastal Leaders Resist Beach Opening
Kemp’s shelter-in-place order rescinds local restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, including those closing Georgia’s beaches. In a scathing statement Saturday, Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions called it a “reckless mandate.”
"As the Pentagon ordered 100,000 body bags to store the corpses of Americans killed by the Coronavirus, Governor Brian Kemp dictated that Georgia beaches must reopen, and declared any decision-makers who refused to follow these orders would face prison and/or fines," the statement said.
The governor's office did not immediately return GPB's request for comment.
Sessions said that while the beaches, which are regulated by the state Department of Natural Resources, must reopen, the city of Tybee would keep its beach access points and parking lots closed until further notice. She also said the city would “pursue legal avenues” to overturn the state decision.
DNR put in place its own order aimed at limiting beach use. It bans chairs, tents and umbrellas seaward of the ordinary high-water mark. That’s the portion of the beach that is state property.
In a Facebook post, State Rep. Jesse Petrea, whose district includes Tybee Island, said DNR rangers were expected to patrol beaches to enforce strict social distancing.
Mayor Of Savannah Frustrated By Order
“Dangerous, irresponsible and sad,” Mayor Van Johnson said on Facebook Friday night, expressing his frustrations over some of the allowances for businesses in Georgia’s statewide shelter-in-place order.
Kemp’s order will negate some of the city of Savannah’s orders the mayor announced days before. Now businesses that had been closed to slow the spread of coronavirus will be allowed to reopen. Johnson expressed concerns about the city’s lack of ability to enforce restrictions.
Georgia Forms Coronavirus Community Outreach Committee
The governor announced the formation of a coronavirus community outreach committee in a press release sent earlier today in an effort to support more Georgians during the pandemic.
"Comprised of talented individuals from the public and private sectors, I am confident this committee will ensure that our state remains prepared in the fight against COVID-19,” Kemp said in a news release Saturday.
Pilots Test Positive For Coronavirus
Nearly 50 Delta Air Lines pilots have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Air Line Pilots Association website. The airline company, based in Atlanta, employs more than 14,000 pilots.
A representative for Delta Air Lines confirmed the pilots had tested positive for the coronavirus but did not specify the exact number, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia School Systems Waive Mandated Calendar
The Georgia Board of Education voted to waive the mandated 180 day attendance calendar last week prompting some school systems to announce early ends to the school year as a result of the pandemic.
Summer break will start May 1 for all Carrolton City Schools, according to Superintendent Mark Albertus in a video posted on Facebook. The decision was made to ensure no unnecessary stress was added to families during this difficult time and he hoped to return to normal by the start of the next school year in August, Albertus said.
May 1 will also be the last day of school for graduating seniors in Fulton County according to a letter sent by Superintendent Mike Looney. He had asked principals to work with graduating seniors to discuss alternative graduation ceremony plans, Looney also said in his letter.
A number of other school systems are considering shortening the school year at this time, according to the Georgia Department of Education.
Nearly 60 Care Facilities Report Cases
COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported in at least 58 long-term health facilities, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, days after more than 100 Georgia National Guardsmen were deployed to assisted-living facilities and nursing homes with coronavirus cases.
First Death Of A Georgia Nurse
The first nurse from Georgia died from COVID-19 April 2, according to a news release from the Georgia Nurses Association Friday. In it, the association’s president thanked the public for their support through the long hours. “We will lose colleagues, family, and friends to this deadly disease. We will be there for you and each other,” President Richard Lamphier said.
The news comes as Georgia officially enters a statewide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
University of Georgia Will Provide Housing For Nurses in Albany
In Albany, where the county is feeling the strain of an unfurling health crisis after the virus spread among funeral goers, Gov. Brian Kemp announced he would make available temporary housing at Albany State to traveling nurses assisting the medical staff at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Medical support teams and the National Guard have, in recent days, deployed to support the hospital staff as 36 people have died in the county with more than 1,000 people awaiting results.
What Does The Shelter-In-Place Order Mean?
Georgia’s shelter in place order went into effect 6 p.m. Friday, requiring the state’s residents to stay at home with few exceptions. The order currently runs through April 13.
Projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show the peak of Georgia’s infections won’t come until the end of April, and the state could run out of hospital bed space in less than two weeks.
Some jobs and businesses are considered “essential infrastructure” and will still be open, albeit with more health and safety precautions in place. Restaurants may remain open but cannot allow dine-in customers. Rather, they can offer take out, delivery or curbside pickup to stay open.
Other businesses will temporarily shutter. Bars and nightclubs already have closed down statewide and now gyms, bowling alleys, barber shops join the list. More than 10 people will be unable to attend church and funerals unless congregants maintain a recommended distance.
Read frequently-asked questions the governor’s office created below.
Sheriffs Deputized To Enforce The Order
The governor has deputized county sheriffs for enforcement of the shelter-in-place edict, along with state troopers, he announced in another executive order Friday.
Law enforcement will now be able to enforce the stay-at-home regulations, including limiting groups of 10 or more in public, as well as shutting down nonprofits and businesses seen to be violating his order.
Walmart Limits Number Of Customers Allowed In Stores
Walmart stores across the country will not allow more than five customers for every 1,000 square feet in a store at any given time beginning Saturday, according to a corporate announcement. The new restriction equates to about 20% of a store’s capacity and will be managed with the implementation of a one way in and one way out structure.