Georgia approaches 6,000 cases, nearly 200 deaths reported due to COVID-19

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

ATLANTA – Confirmed cases of COVID-19 continued on an upward trend in the state of Georgia on Friday, with the number of confirmed cases surging past the 5,900 mark, according to data released during the evening by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

As of 7 p.m. Friday, there were 5,967 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state -- up 523 from what was reported 24 hours prior. There were 198 deaths, that’s an additional 20 from the report a day ago.

Of the cases statewide, 65 COVID-19 cases were reported in Southeast Georgia on Friday night. The cases since the noon report include a total of 23 in Glynn County (no increase), 17 in Ware County (increase of one), 16 in Pierce County (increase of two). Of those counties, three deaths have been in Ware (increase of one).

There were no changes to the number of cases reported in Camden County (six), Charlton County (one) and Brantley County (zero).

Fulton County still has the highest number of cases in Georgia, 910, and 26 deaths have been reported in the county. The small county of Dougherty has had 30 reported deaths of its 607 cases.

Georgia’s governor published his order telling people to stay at home Thursday as officials blamed the virus for record-shattering unemployment claims.

Kemp’s order will take effect at 6 p.m. Friday and last through at least April 13. It comes after days of pressure from local officials and widespread criticism of Kemp’s claimed rationale that he was acting because federal officials had just confirmed that the virus is being spread by seemingly healthy people who are infected but have no symptoms such as fever or cough.

The order says people must stay home unless they are providing or receiving food, household supplies, medical supplies or services, sanitation, safety services or essential home maintenance. It also says people can exercise outside as long as they stay 6 feet apart, but they’re not supposed to have visitors

A wide range of critical infrastructure businesses as designated by the federal government can stay open, including laundromats, dry cleaners, home construction, hardware stores, defense plants, banks, sawmills and news outlets.

The measure limits nonessential businesses to the “necessary activities to maintain the value” of the business, but says they can stay open to the public subject to those restrictions.

Both essential and nonessential businesses are directed to screen workers for signs of illness, implement teleworking and staggered shifts for all possible workers, and increase the distance between work stations to at least 6 feet.

It closes all dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters and other entertainment venues. However, the sale of guns and ammunition is expressly allowed to continue, as is food for takeout and delivery.

The measure does not expressly bar attendance at worship services, although Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said they would have to follow the same strictures regarding distancing and health checks as any business.

Kemp’s order supersedes all local orders issued earlier, providing uniformity that many local officials sought.

The state police and Georgia National Guard are among the agencies to provide resources to enforce the order. Violations are misdemeanors and officials are “supposed to take reasonable steps” before arresting anyone or writing a ticket.

“When Georgians listen to the guidance provided and follow the orders issued, they are actively joining the fight against this deadly disease,” Kemp told reporters as he announced the decision Wednesday.

Meanwhile, unemployment claims processed in Georgia during the last full week of March rose to nearly 134,000, an increase more than 10 times greater than the number filed the week before. The Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday the staggering number set a new record for the most claims ever processed in one week. The previous record was more than 41,000 in January 2009.

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