As of Thursday morning, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia had surpassed 5,000, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
As of 6:30 p.m. Thursday, there were 5,444 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state -- up 96 from what was reported in the morning. There were 176 reported deaths, an additional 13 from what was reported in the morning.
The number of deaths in Dougherty County rose to 30, with the small Southwest Georgia county suffering the most deaths in the state. Fulton County had the highest number of reported cases: 747.
Of the cases statewide, 52 COVID-19 were reported in Southeast Georgia: 21 in Glynn County, 14 in Ware County, 10 in Pierce County, six in Camden County and one in Charlton County. Two deaths have also been reported in Ware County.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday that he will issue a statewide shelter-in-place order to prevent spread of the coronavirus and shut down public schools for the rest of the year.
Kemp had previously resisted calls for a statewide order for all Georgians to stay at home, saying those decisions are best left to local governments. The result has been a patchwork of ordinances that can vary widely even among neighboring communities.
The order will be published Thursday and take effect Friday through April 13, Kemp said at a news conference. And he defended his decision not to issue it earlier, saying Georgia had implemented stricter restrictions than other states and was following guidance from health professionals.
He said the state had to be more aggressive, with models showing Georgia needed more time to prepare to handle patients with the virus. He also said guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that people could spread the virus earlier than previously thought, even when they had no symptoms was a “game-changer.”
“We are taking action to protect our hospitals, to help our medical providers and prepare for the patient surge that we know is coming,” he said. ”This action will ensure uniformity across jurisdictions for Georgians sheltering in place and help families and businesses be able to comply with its provisions.”
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.