ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp extended COVID-19 restrictions and the public health state of emergency Monday as coronavirus cases have fallen, but transmission remains high in the Peach State.
In a new executive order, the Republican governor re-upped sanitation requirements for businesses, a limit on gatherings of more than 50 people, social distancing measures and the shelter in place status for the assisted living facilities and medically fragile Georgians — which now run through Sept. 15.
Kemp renewed the public health state of emergency which gives him broad powers to oversee state agency response to COVID-19 through Oct. 10 — authority he has had since lawmakers approved the emergency declaration in March.
The governor made no changes to the restrictions and criteria in his orders, which include the ability for local cities and counties to mandate masks on government-owned property but only in businesses if owners consent to the requirement.
The decision comes as Georgia's coronavirus case rate has dropped. Just weeks ago, a White House Coronavirus Task Force report dubbed Georgia in the “red zone” for positivity rate and reported that the state was first in the country for new cases per 100,000 people.
The latest report dated Aug. 30, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, shows the state is still in the “red zone” for new cases per 100,000 population but fell to the seventh highest case rate in the country — down from second last week.
“Georgia has seen a decrease in new cases and stability in test positivity over the past week, demonstrating continued week-over-week progress,” the report reads. “With continued aggressive mitigation and prevention of spread from universities to local communities, progress should continue and mortality rate should decrease.”
Still, 82% of counties have ongoing community transmission, according to the report, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommends aggressive testing measures for universities and nursing homes.
It also recommends closing bars, night clubs, entertainment venues and gyms and limiting indoor seating in restaurants to 25% capacity.
Some “encouraging signs” in the data, noted in a statement from the governor’s office, are that COVID-19 hospitalizations have been at their lowest since July 6 — the number fell below 2,000 during the weekend — and statewide positivity rate has steadily declined over the past month.
According to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency statistics releases Tuesday, only about 19% of the state’s critical care beds and 27% of the state’s general inpatient beds are available.
The state also surpassed 270,000 COVID-19 cases early this week and recorded 5,633 related deaths. The rate of new deaths per day still remain high.