ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp extended the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, as latest White House report dubbed the state finally out of the “red zone" in its fight against coronavirus.
In a new executive order, Kemp extended current restrictions on businesses and gatherings through Oct. 15. At the same time, he extended the public health state of emergency — giving him broad control over agency response to the virus — through Nov. 9.
Only minimal changes were made to the orders, including just one relaxed restriction for restaurants and bars. Now, employees may return to work once they have been symptom-free for 24 hours following a positive or suspected COVID-19 diagnosis. Previous executive orders required three days.
The Republican governor has now twice extended both executive orders with little to no flexing of current restrictions.
While the Peach State is showing signs of improvement in the rate of new cases, the most recent White House Coronavirus Task Force, obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, dated Sept. 27 warns the state must “continue strong mitigation efforts statewide” — particularly in communities with colleges or universities.
Now deemed in the “orange zone,” the report puts Georgia 23rd in the nation for rate of new cases.
The Department of Public Health released updated data on Tuesday that noted positive improvements for the week Sept. 21 through 28 including a more than 30% decrease in the seven-day average of new cases. Since the state’s peak seven-day average case rate July 24, the department said, there has been nearly 70% decrease.
However, according to the White House report, the state’s death rate remained well above the national average. On Wednesday, Georgia surpassed 7,000 COVID-19 related deaths.
In his newest order, Kemp also extended the deadline for high school graduates to submit ACT or SAT scores to qualify for the Zell Miller and Hope scholarships.