Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered thousands of state employees to work from home and suspended non-essential travel for workers as coronavirus (COVID-19) numbers increase across the country and the virus claimed its first Georgia resident.
During an afternoon press conference, Kemp gave the greenlight for school districts and daycare centers to shutter in coordination with local officials, but said he would not mandate any closures.
Immediately after the press conference, Atlanta, Decatur, Fulton, and DeKalb school systems cancelled classes for two weeks or more.
All 26 campuses of the University System of Georgia – including Georgia State University and Georgia – will close for two weeks and all students have been asked to leave campus by 5 p.m. on March 13 and not return until March 29. While the universities are closed, they will be testing online teaching modules in case the rest of the semester is cancelled. Emory, Oglethorpe, Morehouse, Spelman and Clark Atlanta already announced they would move to online classes.
The General Assembly will suspend its current legislative session after March 13 due to concern about the coronavirus pandemic. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston agreed to suspending the session, which will resume at a date to be determined, according to a press release from the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. “We continue to urge calm and appropriate responses to the coronavirus situation,” Duncan said in the press release. “However, the current environment demands that we take additional preventative action.” The suspension will follow the 29th day of the legislative session, which can run up to 40 days.
Kemp urged elderly Georgians and those with compromised immune systems to avoid large gatherings where could contract coronavirus.
The governor said the economic impact to the state will be significant. Large Atlanta events have already been cancelled or altered, including suspension of the Atlanta United season, cancellation of the NCAA Final Four and St. Patrick’s Day parade, and countless other mid-size and small events.
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) confirmed the first death from COVID-19 in Georgia earlier today. The individual, a 67-year-old male, was hospitalized at WellStar Kennestone in Marietta since testing positive for COVID-19 on March 7. In addition to being infected with coronavirus disease, this individual also had underlying medical conditions.
The state has 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 19 presumptive cases, but as more testing occurs that number is expected to increase.