ATLANTA — As the state is gripped with dwindling hospital capacity, Gov. Brian Kemp extended the state of emergency and renewed COVID-19 restrictions.
In an executive order signed late Friday, the Republican governor extended the public health state of emergency first ratified by lawmakers March 16.
Kemp has since renewed the declaration four times in hand with doling out and rolling back COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and businesses.
The state of emergency gives Kemp additional powers to respond to the pandemic and now runs through Sept. 10.
A federal report, obtained by the New York Times, lists Georgia as among 21 states in the "red zone” and recommends imposing more restrictions to help manage the state’s spiked case spread.
But Kemp’s renewed COVID-19 restrictions don’t include provisions that rollback reopening. It continues to require social distancing, bans gatherings of more than 50 people while at the same time banning mask mandates by local officials.
Kemp is locked in a legal battle with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms about her order requiring masks in public and taking businesses back to an easier stage of reopening. All while for weeks, counties and cities across the state have tried to implement their own face-covering rules.
Kemp has maintained that such local ordinances are unenforceable.
The renewed executive order extends coronavirus protocol for businesses and shelter-in-place for medically fragile populations until Aug 15.
In a statement, Kemp shifted the fate of the state’s reopening to Georgians.
"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,” he said. "While government plays an important role in fighting this pandemic, the people of our great state will ultimately be the ones who defeat this virus.”
As of Friday, Georgia has reported 186,352 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,752 deaths. Hospitalizations have skyrocketed to 18,689 since the beginning of the pandemic.
According to the Georgia Emergency Management Center, 86% of the state’s critical care beds are in use as well as 82% of general inpatient beds.
Available critical care beds are dropping to single digits — especially in rural parts of the state.