As of March 23 at 7 p.m., there were 800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 26 deaths in Georgia. Of the confirmed cases, 152 are in Fulton County.
Cities in the county, including South Fulton and Atlanta, are taking additional steps to reduce the spread of the virus and protect the general public. Following yesterday’s announcements of new executive orders issued by Governor Brian Kemp, both cities are providing additional guidance and regulations for residents.
City of South Fulton officials are encouraging residents to follow a mandate from Gov. Kemp requiring people at high-risk for certain medical conditions to shelter in place to help curb the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).
At a minimum, the shelter-in-place order applies to people in long-term care facilities, those with chronic lung disease, those undergoing cancer treatment, those who have tested positive for COVID-19 and those suspected of having the virus because of symptoms or exposure to an infected person.
“As we continue to fight COVID-19, our top priority remains the health and safety of residents and staff,” said Mayor William “Bill” Edwards. “Today, the governor announced new strategic steps that will help slow the spread of this virus. I am calling on all of my friends and neighbors in the City of South Fulton to do their parts in this fight.”
In a state of emergency declaration approved March 17, city officials limited public gatherings to 10 people and set a curfew from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m. for all residents and businesses open to the public. The city has suspended all non-essential programs and services and closed all non- essential facilities until further notice. Residents are encouraged to call 911 for emergencies and use the SeeClickFix app or call the city’s 24-hour 311 call center at (470) 522-4311 for information or to report non-emergency issues.
Speaking from the Capitol, Kemp announced measures to close all bars and nightclubs and banned public gatherings of more than 10 people, except where a minimum distance of six feet between people can be maintained at all times. The executive order takes effect Tuesday, March 24, at noon and expires at noon on Monday, April 6.
Kemp said the order was developed with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health. The health department has been charged with developing procedures that will allow those sheltering in place to gain access to essential services and resources.
Department of health officials also are empowered to enforce all provisions of the order, the governor said.
“These measures are intended to ensure the health and safety of Georgians across our state,” he said. “They will protect the medically fragile, mitigate potential exposure in public venues and allow the state to ramp up emergency preparedness efforts as cases increase in each region.”
In a separate order addressing critical healthcare needs, Kemp suspended restrictions on doctors whose licenses have lapsed in the last five years and approved temporary licenses for graduate nursing students who have not taken the licensing exam.
Kemp joined 21 other governors Monday in signing letter to senior congressional leaders, asking for federal block grant funding to assist in fighting the virus.
“Governors across the country are on the front lines of this fight and many of us are spending heavily at the end of the budget year, while facing a significant decline in economic activity during this crisis,” he said. “We desperately need these resources.”
Beyond complying with Monday’s orders, as well as previous directives, Georgian’s can help by continuing to follow the guidance of healthcare professionals by regularly washing their hands, practicing social distancing and disinfecting frequently used areas to prevent infection.
Kemp also asked people to call out and report any people or organizations not following the directives and stop doing business with those not complying with the order.
“This fight is far from over, but we are in this fight together,” he said. “While we have taken strategic, direct action today, I am calling on my fellow citizens to fight this virus with everything you’ve got. We are all part of the solution.”
Meanwhile, in the neighboring City of Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order instituting a temporary order for those individuals within the territorial jurisdictional limits of the City of Atlanta to stay in their place of residence in response to the rising number of COVID-19 infections.
“I appreciate the leadership of Governor Brian Kemp during this crisis and his concern for the wellbeing of the people across Georgia,” said Mayor Bottoms. “While Governor Kemp has to consider the needs of the state as a whole, as Mayor of Atlanta, I have been entrusted with making decisions that are specific to our city. Given our population density, high rate of asthma, and various underlying health conditions found within our city’s populations, I am issuing a Stay at Home Order for Atlantans.”
“Until we flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections, the City must exercise every reasonable power to slow the spread of this virus,” said Mayor Bottoms. “Across the globe we are seeing a growing sense of urgency, and we must all make some sacrifices to break the chain of infections and avert a worst-case scenario.”
Atlanta residents are to stay in their place of residence and maintain social distancing of at least six feet with others that share their homes. Residents may leave their place of residence only for essential activities, essential governmental functions or to operate essential businesses.
Under the order, all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited. Essential activities include seeking medical care, obtaining supplies like groceries and household consumer products and working to provide an essential service.
Many businesses will be impacted by the order, as only those offering essential services will be able to remain open. Essential businesses include healthcare operations, grocery stores, farms, gas stations, banks, hardware stores, lodging businesses, plumbing and electrical businesses, laundromats, businesses deliver essential goods and services, home-based care companies for seniors, adults and children, childcare facilities, utilities and professional services, such as legal or accountants. A full list is available in Bottom’s executive order.
COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and guidance offered by local governments and public health officials is subject to change.
Editor’s Note: Story updated on March 24 at 8:39 a.m.