ATLANTA (CBS46) – Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has not renewed the state’s stay-at-home order although the shelter-in-place order will remain in effect for the medically fragile population until June 12, 2020. Georgia will remain under a public health State of Emergency until May 13 to help with testing and other issues.
"Moving forward, I'm urging Georgians to continue to stay at home when possible," Kemp said in an announcement posted on Twitter Thursday. "In accordance with our executive orders, businesses across the peach state must continue to operate with strict social distancing and sanitation rules to keep customers and employees safe through May 13, 2020."
Today we are taking another measured step to protect the lives - and livelihoods - of all Georgians. We will continue to work around the clock to follow the data, heed the advice of public health officials, and keep Georgia families safe. pic.twitter.com/kPFjAfDApW— Governor Brian P. Kemp (@GovKemp) April 30, 2020
Kemp became the first governor in the country to allow businesses to re-open last week, under restrictions, since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the country. The Governor’s office moved ahead with the plan even after receiving criticism from the medical community and the White House. An official announcement about the stay-at-home order was expected Wednesday, but it was delayed.
Read the full Executive Order released Thursday
Since Kemp’s decision to let businesses re-open with restrictions, some Georgians have slowly started to patronize salons, restaurants, and other establishments. Earlier this week, Simon Malls also announced it would re-open some local malls as early as this weekend, before confirmation that the stay-at-home order would be lifted.
Medical Experts, like Dr. Harry Heiman of the Georgia State University School of Public Health, believe the state needs to vastly increase testing before considering lifting the stay-at-home order. Dr. Heiman told CBS46 that if the stay-at-home order is lifted before testing reaches a consistent level, it’s possible there could be a surge of new cases.
The latest projections from the University of Washington’s COVID-19 models showed that Georgia has passed the peak in number of deaths per day. However, the model also said that social distancing must be enforced until at least June 27 and can then be relaxed if containment strategies like testing, contract tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size are in place.
According to state numbers, the number of confirmed cases and a 7-day-moving average have both declined since April 16. The overall number of cases has continued to grow since that date and some previous days are being revised upwards as the state confirms more cases and receives more data.
Fulton County and the Atlanta metro area are at the heart of the largest number of confirmed cases in the state. That has set up a disagreement between the mayor of Georgia’s largest city, Atlanta’s Keisha Lance Bottoms, and the governor.
Mayor Bottoms hasn’t said what she will do now that the order is expiring. Governor Kemp said his order will supersede any local order and local communities can't take actions more than what is allowed in his executive order.
Bottoms said Thursday say she talked to Simon Malls and expressed her opinion to them that they need to remain closed, but the company said it would do everything it could to make customers and employees safe, except for staying closed.
For his part, Governor Kemp said he expects a rise in cases when things re-open but believes the state hospital system can handle any potential spikes.
The health of the Georgia economy was one of the overriding concerns for business leaders and weighed on Governor Kemp. Thursday, economic numbers from the U.S. Department of Labor showed roughly 30 million people had filed new unemployment claims since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic response. Georgia is no exception and tens of thousands have lost their jobs.
But, major problems with the state’s unemployment system have left many waiting for expanded unemployment benefits for weeks with rent and food bills continuing to pile up.
CBS46 highlighted some of the people who have lost jobs and their homes as they wait weeks for unemployment assistance that never arrives. Wednesday, Better Call Harry told the story of a Little League umpire named Tim Brown. He lost his job calling games and his job at a warehouse as COVID-19 devastated the U.S. economy. He then lost his job and is now living in his car. He’s been approved for benefits, but they are nowhere to be found and the Georgia Department of Labor said it was trying to figure out where the money is right now.
On the popular digital platform Reddit, a Georgia Unemployment Insurance megathread has received more than 1,700 comments over the last month from people looking for help filing claims or trying to figure out what happened to their claims and why they aren’t receiving any benefits.
Governor Kemp’s decision to let the stay-at-home order will open more businesses around the state as many Georgians try to deal with the new normal of the world for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.