COVID-19 death in Georgia as cases spread across state

Governor urging communities and individual schools to close for 2 weeks ’if you feel it is prudent'

Charlton County woman treated, released, later tests positive for COVID-19

ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed Thursday morning that a 67-year-old man who had tested positive for coronavirus last Saturday has died at a hospital in Marietta.

The man also had underlying health conditions, the state announced.

“I know the medical professionals on site did everything that they could, and I greatly appreciate their efforts,” Kemp said. "As our state continues to address this pandemic, I urge Georgians to remain calm and support their neighbors and communities. We are in this fight together.”

The number of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Georgia has risen to more than 30 in about a dozen counties, including two on the Florida-Georgia border.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Kemp said there will be no statewide mandate for closing schools or daycare facilities, but urged local communities and schools that feel that it is prudent to close as early as Friday and remain closed for two weeks.

“This is not a mandate. At this point, we feel local decision-making is the right course of action,” Kemp said, said he would support whatever decision community leaders make.

On Thursday, the Ware County Board of Education announced it was suspending all sporting and fine arts competitions at the middle and high school levels, as well as all external field trips, through March 27. The Ware County School System made the announcement after the Georgia High School Association recommended all member schools suspend spring sports activities until further notice. The Ware County School System added it had not made the decision to close schools or cancel activities at this time.

Kemp also suspended non-essential travel and was implementing telework for most state employees and suspended visitation to state prisons, juvenile justice and veterans services through at least April 10. Kemp said he was not closing the state Capitol and ordered emergency funding freed up $100 million from the state’s revenue reserves to deal with the crisis.

He did urge the Georgia Legislature, to try to end its session early.

Kemp also urged Georgians to help protect the elderly or people with chronic, underlying health conditions -- those most vulnerable to the disease -- by doing their shopping or other errands so their contact with the public can be minimal.

“We need to help them dramatically limit their exposure to the public for the foreseeable services,” Kemp said. “Health officials are now telling us that these vulnerable populations need to avoid mass gatherings and locations with high traffic counts of people, even faith-based services or events. I’ve already this conversation with my mother to keep her safe and get her what she needs in the weeks ahead."

State military officials say more than 100 passengers from a cruise ship are now under quarantine at a Georgia air base. So far, 124 passengers from the Grand Princess are undergoing a two-week quarantine at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Cobb County, northwest of Atlanta, CDC spokesman Bert Kelly said.

The ship docked at the Port of Oakland on Monday after spending days off the California coast while quarantine plans were made after some of its passengers and crew members had tested positive for the virus.

Georgia’s 31 cases are spread across the state, from Floyd County in northwest Georgia to Charlton and Lowndes counties near the Florida line, according to an update late Wednesday from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office. Other cases are from Bartow, Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Fayette, Fulton, Lee and Polk counties.

Some of the tests still await confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A string of large events were canceled this week. Among them: Savannah’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, called off for the first time in nearly a century.

Georgia’s solution for people who test positive for the novel coronavirus but can’t stay at home and don’t require hospitalization is to isolate them in a corner of a state park eas of Atlanta, where mobile housing units have been set up.

So far, the lone resident of the quarantine at Hard Labor Creek State Park is a military veteran who cooked at a Waffle House northwest of Atlanta and doesn’t know how he contracted the illness.

“Every joint in my body hurt,” Joey Camp, 30, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I could not move a joint in my body from my ankles, up my back, arms — could not without sharp pain.”

Camp, who served in Afghanistan and is from Cartersville, was staying with a friend who has an infant son, so he volunteered to be isolated away from home. He said he’s been spending his time at the park taking antibiotics, watching Star Wars films on his cell phone and eating chili dogs and other take-out meals left for him by state health officials.

For most people, this coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, but for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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