ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp this afternoon extended a statewide shelter-in-place order through April 30. Without the extension it would have expired on Monday.
You can review the details of the order here. In general, the order encourages people to stay at their homes except to buy food or to obtain health care. It forbids gatherings of more than 10 and says people should practice social distancing — staying at least 6 feet away from each other.
Local governments also announced Wednesday that facilities will remain closed to the public through April 30, though the public can still do business with their local governments online or by phone and email.
Leaders across Cherokee County reacted to Kemp’s decision Wednesday afternoon.
Cherokee County Board of Commissioners Chairman Harry Johnston said he agreed with Kemp’s decision and thinks such orders are more effective at the state level.
“Some of the latest numbers I’ve been seeing is that the peak will be in Georgia between April 21 and 25,” Johnston said. “Certainly the order needed to go through the end month.”
In addition, Johnston said he wanted to commend the people of Cherokee County for practicing good sense and keeping themselves safe, adding he was proud of the county’s citizens for that and thus helping keep the numbers of those infected with COVID-19 lower than other counties of a similar population size.
“It makes sense to extend the shelter in place order,” Ball Ground Mayor Rick Roberts said. “I think the order is making a difference, and that it is helping.”
However, Roberts said the order will make its best difference if people remember that it is not designed to limit liberties, but about protecting both their health and the health of others.
“I am in full support of Gov. Kemp’s extension. We are at a pivotal moment in this battle against Covid-19,” Holly Springs Mayor Steven Miller said. “I also hope the Governors office is working on an effective exit strategy from this shelter in place order. Our local small business and residents have been financially devastated by the pandemic. We need serious answers to questions like ‘how do we move forward with the possibility this comes back in the fall?’ and ‘how do we move forward protecting our community while protecting our liberties?’. Tough questions that need answers. We need to come up with a solution that doesn’t destroy our economy or further move our government towards socialism.”
“I’m glad Gov. Kemp extended the statewide shelter in place order through the month of April,” Woodstock Mayor Donnie Henriques said. “It’s becoming apparent that we need to stay in our homes for a longer period of time to fight this pandemic. I appreciate the additional measures ordered by the governor to protect our most vulnerable citizens in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and to activate additional National Guard members. Woodstock is grateful the Guard is serving in our community.”
“While I realize the Governor’s extension of the statewide shelter in place order until April 30 will continue to be extremely challenging in many ways, I am pleased there is now a coordinated and consistent approach to fighting the pandemic to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” Canton Mayor Bill Grant said. “In addition to the statewide efforts, the extension also mirrors the federal social distancing guidelines through April 30, so this is a nationwide effort. There are signs our proactive social distancing efforts are beginning to help flatten the curve, but we can’t let our guard down. The more proactive we are now, regardless of the continued inconvenience and severe economic impacts, the sooner we will get beyond this unprecedented nightmare and focus on recovery.”
Earlier Wednesday, Kemp and Georgia’s top legislative leaders jointly announced Wednesday they will extend a statewide public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic through May 13.
Kemp first declared a public health emergency back on March 14 as COVID-19 began taking hold in Georgia. Lawmakers ratified the governor’s order two days later during a one-day special session and set the declaration to expire on April 13.
“This measure will allow us to continue to deploy resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our health-care facilities,” Kemp said in a prepared statement. “We deeply appreciate the hard work of Georgians who are sheltering in place, using social distancing, and helping us flatten the curve. We are in this fight together.”
The extension of the public health emergency by Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan – the state Senate’s presiding officer – and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston came as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the resulting deaths continued to mount.
As of Wednesday afternoon 9,901 Georgians had tested positive for coronavirus and 362 had died from the virus. In Cherokee County Wednesday afternoon there were 155 confirmed infections and there have been six deaths attributed to the virus.
“We must continue our aggressive fight against COVID-19,” Duncan said. “By extending the public health state of emergency, we can ensure Georgians have access to every available state resource during this crisis.”
“The entirety of our state government is working to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” added Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “While we have difficult days ahead, we continue to coordinate with both local and federal partners in responding to needs as they arise. As Georgians, we will persevere and emerge stronger on the other side.”
Kemp is extending the public health emergency declaration without having to call the legislature back for another special session.
After hours of behind-the-scenes negotiations during the one-day special session last month, the General Assembly passed a resolution authorizing the governor to extend the declaration unilaterally if lawmakers were unable to return to the Capitol this month because of the limit on large gatherings necessitated by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the state remains under a separate statewide shelter-in-place order that took effect last Friday. That order is due to expire at 11:59 p.m. April 13 unless Kemp acts to extend it.
Kemp, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, state Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson, and Georgia National Guard Adjutant Gen. Tom Carden are scheduled to deliver an update on the state’s COVID-19 response efforts Wednesday afternoon.