Georgia Coronavirus Updates: Waffle House Readies To Reopen; CDC Adds 6 Symptoms
Georgia continues to move forward with Gov. Brian Kemp's plan to "revive" the economy. That means businesses including barber shops, nail salons and bowling alleys can open to patrons as long as they follow the governor's safety guidelines.
Restaurants may welcome customers to dine indoors starting Monday. That includes about 400 Waffle House restaurants across the state. The Norcross-based chain said Kemp's guidelines would be used to ensure the safety of employees and guests.
There are more than 23,000 cumulative reported COVID-19 cases in Georgia, and about 19% of those have resulted in hospitalizations. The 7 p.m. update shows 907 deaths or 3.9% of those with confirmed cases, died. More than 119,000 tests have been performed.
Here is the latest coronavirus news in Georgia for Saturday, April 25, 2020.
Waffle House in-person dining returns
The Norcross-based national chain temporarily closed hundreds of its restaurants in late March when the coronavirus outbreak hit. A Cherokee County man who worked in a Canton Waffle House restaurant decided to recover from COVID-19 in the state's first isolation camp. That restaurant closed for cleaning, but later reopened for curbside take-out orders.
Local Reaction: As Kemp Moves To Reopen, Some Businesses And Churches Hesitate
Roughly six weeks ago, Waffle Houses removed menus and silverware from tables, spokeswoman Njeri Boss told GPB News. While still available, guests must ask for menus and condiments.
"Those would have to be requested by customers so that we could sanitize them immediately after each use," Boss said.
That's in line with Kemp's standards for in-person dining starting Monday, April 27. Restaurants are subject to an even longer list of health and safety restrictions than other businesses.
No more than 10 diners are allowed per 500 square feet of dining space, Kemp’s order says, and that also means no salad bars and buffets, pre-set silverware, self-service drink, condiment and utensil stations and limiting party sizes to no more than six people.
"We have people coming into the restaurant already practicing social distancing and limiting the capacity when they come in to place their takeout orders and stand and wait for their orders and then take their orders to leave," Boss said. "The only thing that's going to be really different is that perhaps a few of them might choose to sit down and eat before they leave. So we don't really see this as a as a grand reopening."
More testing sites open across Georgia
The Georgia Department of Public Health released a list of all active specimen collection sites for COVID-19 testing in Georgia. Click HERE for a list of 48 active testing sites across the state.
CDC adds more symptoms of coronavirus to list
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added to the list of coronavirus symptoms that can appear between two to 14 days after exposure:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
The list of symptoms already included fever, cough and shortness of breath. While COVID-19 testing is more widely available in Georgia, the CDC says to seek immediate medical attention by calling 911 if you experience:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or inability to arouse
- Bluish lips or face
‘Reviving a healthy Georgia’
Kemp’s new order, which you can read in full below, does several things he says will “protect the strength of Georgia’s economy and provide for the health, safety and welfare of Georgia’s residents and visitors.”
It’s the first in-depth look at the state’s plan to jumpstart the economy that has been ravaged by the coronavirus, but came mere hours before some businesses were supposed to implement them and reopen.
Some of these provisions begin once the shelter-in-place order expires April 30 and end when the public health emergency expires May 13.
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The governor said all residents and visitors to Georgia are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings while outside of their homes, and shall practice social distancing and refrain from gatherings of 10 or more people unless they can social distance themselves.
Those who are over 65 years old, are “medically fragile” or have underlying health conditions are ordered to shelter in place until May 13.
CDC helping out with contact tracing
The CDC is funding 650 health workers at state health departments to supplement more than 600 CDC staff already in place, according to Director Dr. Robert Redfield.
Redfield said it's part of an effort to expand the nation's public health workforce. The goal is to ensure every community can do enough testing and contact tracing to prevent any big new outbreaks from occurring.
"As we open up, we need to reset our sights on what the primary strategy is to control this virus and that has got to be containment. And that means we have to have the testing and capacity to contain-contain-contain this virus," he said.
Redfield said the CDC is providing $45 million for these new hires, which include epidemiologists, nurses, microbiologists, lab technicians and others — plus a regional director for each of 10 regions. The funding will cover new positions for up to a year.