Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp ordered all bars and nightclubs to shut down to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 shortly before the state announced the total number of positive tests had grown to 800 as of Monday night.
Coronavirus deaths in Georgia increased to 26 -- more deaths than Florida and all but five other states in the nation.
Monday’s caseload update of 800 positives includes the first positive diagnosis in Pierce County in Southeast Georgia. (A patient diagnosed with COVID-19 at Southeast Georgia Health Services’ Camden campus is a Charlton County resident).
There the number of cases in Glynn County remains at four.
Metro Atlanta still accounts for the largest overall number of cases, with Fulton County reporting more than 152 infections and at least two deaths from the new virus.
In southwest Georgia, Albany and surrounding Dougherty County have ordered residents to stay home unless they’re going to work, buying food, seeking medical care or exercising. The county has reported six deaths and 69 cases and neighboring Lee County has 19. Infections in Bartow County northwest of Atlanta have surpassed 60, with one death and DeKalb County has 74 positive cases.
If those testing positive in Georgia, 59% were between 18- and 59-years-old, with 36% age 60 and up and 1% 17 or younger.
Despite the growing outbreak, Georgia Republicans held county conventions across the state Saturday for meetings that are part of the process for electing delegates to the Republican National Convention, where President Donald Trump is expected to be nominated later this year. GOP leaders in Georgia had discouraged attendance beyond the minimum number of people required.
“The meetings were safely and quickly held, conducting the minimum necessary legal business,” Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer said in a text message Saturday. “They were lightly attended.”
Meanwhile, a second Georgia lawmaker announced that she has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Republican state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick of Marietta said she was tested after coming down with a fever a week ago and got the result Friday. Kirkpatrick said she and her husband have quarantined themselves at home and she’s “comfortable that I have not put anyone at risk.”
“Fortunately, it is a great time to be on my back porch,” Kirkpatrick, a physician, wrote on her Facebook page. “Although I am in the at-risk age group, I am blessed to be very healthy and thankful that I am recovering without complications.”
One of her legislative colleagues, GOP Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta, previously announced he had been diagnosed with the coronavirus. Georgia’s 235 other representatives and senators, plus legislative employees, have been urged to self-quarantine through March 30. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican who presides over the state Senate, said he is staying home.
The General Assembly has suspended its regular session because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Of Georgians who have died, the average age was just over 66, with the oldest being 85 and the youngest 42, according to the state Department of Public Health. At least 10 had underlying health conditions.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe complications such as pneumonia. The vast majority recover.
Schools and colleges statewide have been closed. Like Dougherty County, Athens-Clarke County has imposed some of the toughest restrictions by ordering residents to stay home except for work, doctor visits or other necessities.
As the spring break season arrives, local governments have closed public beaches at Tybee Island and St. Simons Island on the Georgia coast. Officials have also shut down beaches and public restrooms at Jekyll Island, though other outdoor areas of the state park remained open.
Georgia has opened at least 13 drive-thru locations for virus testing and plans more. Kemp says the priority for tests is being given to those at highest risk -- the elderly, people who already have chronic illnesses, those in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities and first responders such as paramedics.