Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that all schools in Georgia would remain closed through April 24.

“I am deeply grateful to State School Superintendent Richard Woods, the Georgia Department of Education, superintendents, and parents for keeping us informed and helping us make the right decision for our students,” Kemp said. “Throughout this process, we will continue to seek the advice of public health officials, school leaders, and families to ensure the health and safety of the educational community. As we approach April 24, 2020, we ask for continued patience and flexibility since circumstances may change, but we encourage families to stay strong and follow the guidance of federal, state, and local leaders in the weeks ahead.”

Cherokee County school buildings were already closed, with online instruction through April 3 and were not scheduled to return until after spring break which begins April 6.

In a message Thursday afternoon, school system officials said that all extracurricular activities and planned events through April 24 are canceled. The school system nutrition department will continue to provide meals to students at pickup locations.

Superintendent Brian Hightower addressed the question of when students will return to classrooms in a communication to parents on Wednesday.

“Just as we looked to public health and state officials for guidance as to when to close, we will do the same in deciding when to re-open,” Hightower said. “I cannot tell you if schools will re-open before the school year is scheduled to end, and I cannot tell you if we will hold graduation ceremonies in person. This is a time when we all must plan for the worst and hope for the best, and I am praying for the best.”

Georgia’s public colleges and universities and technical colleges, which were shut down earlier this month for the rest of the current semester, will continue to provide online instruction.

As Kemp made his announcement on the schools, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia moved past 1,500, with 48 deaths reported from the virus. There were 38 confirmed cases in Cherokee County.

As of noon Thursday, 1,525 Georgians had tested positive for COVID-19. Of those patients, 473 – or 31% — were hospitalized.

More than 8,900 Georgians have been tested for coronavirus, 1,646 by the state Department of Public Health and 7,280 by a commercial lab.

The virus has spread to 97 of Georgia’s 159 counties. Fulton County has the most COVID-19 cases with 211. Cases in Dougherty County have soared to 156, a huge number considering the county’s population.

DeKalb County was third as of noon Thursday with 129 positive cases, followed by Cobb County with 115, Bartow County with 86 and Gwinnett County with 75.

Dave Williams of Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.

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Managing Editor

Gary Tanner is managing editor of The Cherokee Tribune, Cherokee Ledger-News and Cherokee Life magazine. He has been working as a journalist since 1985.

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