Gov. Kemp extends public health state of emergency

As Georgia continues to grapple with a surge in COVID-19 cases, Governor Brian Kemp has extended the public health state of emergency and current public health safety measures.

On Friday, Kemp said the state’s fight against COVID-19 continues. He signed two executive orders aimed at “protecting the lives and livelihoods” of Georgians.

The state of emergency was not set to expire until August 11, but the governor went ahead and extended it along with the current public health safety measures that were due to expired at midnight.

The governor made his announcement on a day when the Georgia Department of Public Health reported over 4,100 new cases of COVID-19 and 81 more deaths statewide. Georgia has the twelfth-highest death toll among states, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. Since the outbreak began in March, 3,752 people in Georgia with the virus have died.

Hospital admissions have increased and the current hospital bed capacity at acute care hospitals in the state is low. According to a report Friday from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, only 14% of the state’s critical care beds and 18% of general inpatient beds are still available. COVID-19 patients account for 19% of all current acute care hospital admissions in the state.

Kemp said the state is ramping up testing, expanding its hospital surge capacity, and providing staffing, supplies, and resources to cities and counties throughout Georgia. He urged local officials to enforce the rules and restrictions detailed in his orders.

Offering a glimpse into when restrictions might ease, Kemp said, “When businesses, restaurants, venues, and citizens follow the guidelines carefully crafted by data, science, and the Georgia Department of Public Health, we will take our next measured step forward.”

Although Kemp acknowledges that the government plays an “important role” in fighting this pandemic he said it’s the people who will ultimately be the ones who defeat the virus. “We continue to encourage fellow Georgians to wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash their hands regularly, and follow public health guidance.”

The extended public health emergency is in effect until September 10, 2020. It allows for enhanced coordination across government and the private sector for supply procurement, comprehensive testing, and healthcare capacity.

The extended order on restrictions remains in effect through at least August 15. It continues to require social distancing, bans gatherings of more than fifty people unless there is six feet between each person, outlines mandatory criteria for businesses, and requires sheltering in place for those living in long-term care facilities and the medically fragile.

This article has been updated with additional information

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