Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued a 30-page executive order on May 12 chock full of updated guidance and rules in the state’s effort to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In an item of interest to many families in the Jewish community, Kemp said that the state will issue “strict criteria” permitting the opening of summer day camps beginning May 14, but “we are not allowing overnight summer camps in Georgia at this time.”
Those announcements were of importance to the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta, which has set May 15 as the date to announce plans for its day camps and Camp Barney Medintz, the overnight camp near Cleveland, Ga. “We will continue to watch the data, keep a close eye on compliance, and make a decision on a case-by-case basis” when the Georgia Department of Public Health determines that overnight camps are safe, Kemp said.
The governor added that until the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues guidelines on camps, which he said are expected soon, the state’s “guardrails” for day camps will remain in effect.
Also of possible interest to the parents of young children, Kemp announced that the limit on the number of people in a single room of a daycare center will be increased from 10 to 20, so long as staff-to-child ratios set by the state are maintained.
As of 7 p.m. on May 12, the Georgia DPH reported that the state had 34,848 confirmed cases of COVID-19, which had resulted in 6,227 hospitalizations and been linked to 1,494 deaths. The state had tested 262,179 people out of a population of 10.6 million.
With restrictions, Kemp allowed barbershops, nail salons, massage parlors and other businesses with personal contact to reopen in late April, and then allowed restaurants to resume dine-in service.
Kemp’s new executive order increases from six to 10 the number of patrons allowed per 300 square feet of public space in restaurants and dining rooms and the party size permitted per table also increases from six to 10.
At a press conference announcing the executive order, Kemp said, “All Georgians must continue to follow social distancing, and gatherings of more than ten people remain banned unless there is at least six feet between each person. The gatherings ban applies to all non-critical infrastructure businesses, local governments, and organizations of all types, including social groups, informal get-togethers, and recreational sports, just to name a few. We continue to strongly encourage people to wear face coverings when out in public, and we thank everyone for their willingness to do the right thing.”
The governor extended through the end of May the health and safety precautions set for businesses permitted to reopen. Restaurants, which have been limited to seating no more than six people per 300 square feet, now may seat groups of up to 10 people.
Meanwhile, bars, nightclubs and music venues will remain closed through the end of May. “I know this extension is difficult for many Georgia business owners and communities with music venues. However, we believe that waiting a little bit longer will enhance health outcomes and give folks the opportunity to prepare for safe reopening in the near future,” Kemp said.
Minor changes were made to relax restrictions on gyms and health clubs, but social distancing and sanitation rules remain in effect.
The shelter-in-place order for Georgia residents deemed “medically fragile” and those over age 65 remains in place until June 12.
Kemp said that with the help of the Georgia National Guard, 46 percent of nursing home residents and 24 percent of nursing home staff statewide had been tested for COVID-19, though 46,000 people in those facilities had yet to be tested. The National Guard has conducted tests in 142 nursing homes thus far, the governor said.
Residents and staff of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and personal home care accounted for 18.5 percent of the state’s positive COVID-19 cases and 49 percent of deaths related to COVID-19 involve residents in these settings, he said.
On May 12, Kemp said, the state received from the federal government its first shipment of remdesivir, an experimental anti-viral medication drug that researchers say has shown some success in reducing the length of hospitalization for people suffering from COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration has authorized emergency use of the drug. The state received a delivery of 30 cases, with 40 vials of the drug per case. The DPH was charged with working out distribution of the drug.
Kemp also said that the state was rapidly increasing its contact tracing program, the effort to find those who have been in contact with people testing positive for COVID-19. The number of people assigned to that work will increase from the current 250 to 1,000 in the coming weeks, the governor said.
“Many have warned of a ‘second wave’ and asked if we are willing to change course if conditions decline. Let me be clear: we will continue to track the numbers and continue to heed Dr. [and DPH Commissioner Kathleen] Toomey’s advice. We will take whatever action is necessary to protect the lives and livelihoods of Georgians,” Kemp said.