Kemp opens bars and renews state of emergency

State & National
bars

ATLANTA, Ga – Gov. Brian Kemp decided to continue the state of emergency and stay at home order for the elderly and at-risk individuals through July 12. However, the governor also announced the reopening of bars, amusement parks, night clubs, professional sports, and overnight summer camps.

Music venues must remain closed.

Kemp issued timelines for the lifting of each restriction.

May 31 Openings

  • Overnight Summer Camps

June 1 Openings

  • Gatherings of 25 people will be allowed – if the area meets space requirements
  • Bars
  • Night Clubs
  • Professional Sports
  • Amateur Sports

June 12 Openings

  • Amusement Parks
  • Water Parks

Georgia will not mandate citizens to wear masks, but Kemp highly encourages everyone to wear masks in crowded areas and public places.

66 percent of nursing home residents have been tested for COVID-19. On June 1, the Department of Public Health will move to once-daily updates of coronavirus numbers.

Shelter in Place order extended for medically fragile until June 12

Press Release, State & National
shelter in place

ATLANTA, Ga – Governor Brian P. Kemp signed Executive Order 4.30.20.01 which extends the medically fragile shelter in place and the Public Health State of Emergency until June 12.

The entire statement from the governor is below:

“Tonight at 11:59 PM, the statewide shelter in place order for most Georgians will expire. However, moving forward, I am urging Georgians to continue to stay home whenever possible. I want to thank the people of our great state who heeded public health advice, afforded us time to bolster our healthcare infrastructure, and flattened the curve. We were successful in these efforts, but the fight is far from over.

“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. Those rules vary by business type for a measured, health-driven approach.

“The health and well-being of Georgians are my top priorities, and my decisions are based on data and advice from health officials. I will do what is necessary to protect the lives – and livelihoods – of our people. I will formally extend our public health state of emergency through June 12, 2020, to continue enhanced testing across Georgia, ramp up contact tracing, and maintain effective emergency response operations in every region.

“To protect vulnerable populations, I will sign an order today requiring medically fragile and elderly Georgians to continue to shelter in place through June 12, 2020. In addition, I will order long-term care facilities – including nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living facilities, and similar community living homes – to utilize enhanced infection control protocols, ensure safer living conditions, and protect residents and staff from coronavirus exposure.

“Together, we will defeat this virus and emerge stronger. Thank you, and God Bless.”

Click here to view a video message from the Governor.

Georgia Dept. of Labor addresses unemployment options

Press Release, State & National
unemployment

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Department of Labor are partnering to ensure Georgians understand their unemployment options as the state begins the safe reopening of businesses. Governor Kemp announced plans Monday to safely and incrementally reopen sectors of the economy, and today, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler encouraged employers to work with employees to determine a successful return to work plan.

“Thanks to Governor Kemp and his support, we were able to issue an emergency rule that increased the earnings exemption amount from $55 to $300 allowing individuals to make $300 a week without reducing their weekly benefit amount,” said Commissioner Butler. “If a business opens back up slowly and their employees are returning to work with reduced hours, employers can continue to file employer-filed partial claims on behalf of their employees.”

Pursuant to the emergency rule issued on March 26, 2020, an individual can make up to $300 per week without reducing their maximum weekly benefit amount, allowing employees to work reduced hours and still qualify for state weekly benefits and the federal $600 weekly supplement.

“As we take measured steps to reopen sectors of our state’s economy, it is vital that we continue to support Georgians trying to re-enter the workforce,” said Governor Kemp. “Commissioner Butler and the Department of Labor are working around the clock to do just that. Their action under historic circumstances will continue to give our state’s workforce viable options to put food on the table for their families as we fight COVID-19 together.”

Employer-filed partial claims account for 75 percent of the state’s 1.1 million claims since March 14. Employers are required to report an individual’s weekly gross wages when certifying on behalf of the employee with the GDOL. These employer-filed partial claims can include full-time and part-time employees, as long as employers are accurately reporting an individual’s weekly wages. An employer’s account will not be charged for claims filed against it for employer-filed partial claims during this time.

“Despite claims to the contrary, returning to work does not automatically eliminate an individual’s state unemployment eligibility,” said Butler. “In fact, we designed this provision to encourage employers to continue to file while returning employees to work to take advantage of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) benefits.”

The rule states that earnings of $300 or less will not affect entitlement to benefits. Any amount over $300 will be deducted from a claimant’s weekly benefit amount, a payment determination based on an employee’s past wages. As long as a claimant is awarded at least $1 in state benefits, he or she is eligible to receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the additional $600 weekly payment.

“This option was created with lower wage employees in mind,” said Butler. “Allowing Georgians to supplement their income by making an additional $300 or so a week while continuing to receive state benefits, and now the federal supplement, will allow them to continue to heal from the economic wounds brought about by COVID-19.”

If a decision is made by an employee to separate from his/her place of employment, the employee has the right to file an individual claim where an eligibility determination will be made based on the facts presented in the case.

“If an employee is concerned about returning to work due to exposure to COVID-19, we are encouraging employees to communicate with their employers on plans to safely return to work,” explained Butler. “We are all working together on getting Georgians back to work in a safe and stable environment.”

Information on filing an individual unemployment claim, details on how employers must file employer-filed partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at www.gdol.ga.gov.

April 27 to be a day of prayer for Georgia as fight against COVID-19 continues

Press Release
severe day of prayer

Atlanta, GA – On Monday, April 27, Governor Brian P. Kemp will join Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Speaker David Ralston, and faith leaders from across Georgia in holding a Day of Prayer service in the rotunda of the Georgia State Capitol at 10:00 a.m. As the state continues to battle COVID-19, Kemp, Duncan, and Ralston are calling on all Georgians and members of the faith community around the state to participate by posting videos of their prayers on social media throughout the day.

“Our unprecedented battle with COVID-19 has proven the resolve of the people of Georgia to fight hard, come together, and do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus,” said Governor Kemp. “While we cannot all be together right now, we can join with one another in prayer for our frontline healthcare workers, first responders, law enforcement, business owners, local leaders, and fellow Georgians as we continue the important work of fighting COVID-19 and safely reopening our state. On Monday, I am calling on all Georgians to participate in our Day of Prayer by posting on social media and showing their support for their fellow citizens.”

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on countless lives across our state and nation. In the midst of tremendous loss, uncertainty, and anxiety, I look forward to joining together in prayer,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “Faith and prayer are a comfort to millions of Georgians, and whatever your background, I hope Monday will be a chance for us to focus on those who are hurting and seek wisdom for the hard road ahead.”

“I’m very proud of the response to this crisis by our state government and local and federal partners as well as healthcare workers and frontline personnel,” said Speaker David Ralston. “In such trying times, it is appropriate that we come together to pray for those battling this disease and its impact as well as those who have tragically lost loved ones. I join with Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan, and all Georgians in praying for the mercy and comfort of our Lord as we look forward to brighter days ahead.”

To ensure adherence to social distancing guidelines, the Day of Prayer service will not be open to the general public. Georgians are encouraged to participate via livestream at www.facebook.com/GovKemp at 10:00 a.m.

Georgia Board of Cosmetology and Barbers Issues Safety Guidelines for Reopening

Press Release, State & National
Cosmetology

Atlanta, GA – Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers issued guidance for the safe reopening of Georgia’s salons and spas.

“I deeply appreciate the work of Kay Kendrick and the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers to prepare guidelines for implementation by Georgia’s shops and salons,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “As we begin the process of safely reopening our economy, it is critical that business owners, operators, and contractors adhere strictly to increased safety and sanitation guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Working together, I am confident that we can get these sectors back online and work to ensure the health and safety of all Georgians.”

“I am very happy that Governor Kemp decided that we can reopen our salons and spas,” said Kay Kendrick, chair of the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers. “We have 95,000 licensees under our board, most of whom are independent contractors that have no other source of income.

“Under our sanitation laws and rules, we are charged with the responsibility of protecting consumers from the spread of contagious diseases everyday in our salons. By adding the safety guidelines that have been developed by the board and some of our industry leaders in the cosmetology and barber profession, we feel that our professionals will be able to do an even better job of protecting themselves and their clients. I trust that all our professionals will use these guidelines to be safe and protect their clients. “

Salon/shop owners and managers should use the OSHA “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” as a guide for reopening. Below are some of the top-level guidelines for salon and spa operators to follow. The complete list of guidelines will be available here.

Temperature Checks: Salons should consider use of a touchless infrared thermometer to check the temperature of employees each day and of each client who enters the salon/shop.

Screening Questions: Ask each client entering the shop the following questions – Have you had a cough? Have you had a fever? Have you been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the past 14 days? Are you living with anyone who is sick or quarantined?

Limit People In Shops/Salons: Salons/shops should consider seeing clients by appointment only. Salons/shops should consider telephonic or online scheduling. Limit the number of persons in the waiting area of the salon/shop. It is recommended that clients wait outside the salon/shop in their vehicle until the cosmetologist or barber is ready to serve them. It is recommended that persons not being serviced in the salon/shop wait outside the salon/shop.

Maintain Social Distancing: Spacing between persons in the salon should be at least six feet at all times. Salons/shops should consider additional spacing between booths, divider shields, and/or alternate work schedules.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment and Best Practices: Salon/shop employees will be required to wear masks at all times. Salons may want to consider providing masks to clients. Clients should wear face masks to the extent possible while receiving services. Salons/shops should also make use of face shields, gloves, disposable or re-washable capes, smocks, neck strips, etc. These items should be disinfected or disposed of between each client. Employees should should arrive at the salon/shop showered and wearing clean clothing and change clothes before leaving the salon/shop each day. Hand washing with soap and warm water, for a minimum of 20 seconds will be required by employees between every client service.

Disinfection: All salons/shops should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to reopening. Disinfect all surfaces, tools, and linens, even if they were cleaned before the salon/shop was closed. Salons/shops should maintain regular disinfection of all tools, shampoo bowls, pedicure bowls, workstations, treatment rooms, and restrooms. Additionally, salons/shops should remove all unnecessary items (magazines, newspapers, service menus, and any other unnecessary paper products/decor) from reception areas and ensure that these areas and regularly touched surfaces are consistently wiped down, disinfected, and that hand sanitizer is readily available to clients and staff. Avoiding the exchange of cash can help in preventing the spread of the virus, but if this is unavoidable, be sure to wash and sanitize hands well after each transaction. The use of credit/debit transactions is preferred, using touch/swipe/no signature technology.

Administration: Employees who are sick will be expected to stay home. Salon/shop owners/managers should provide training, educational materials, and reinforcement on proper sanitation, hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette, use of PPE, and other protective behaviors. Ensure break rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and not used for congregating by employees. Be flexible with work schedules/salon hours to reduce the number of people (employees and clients) in salons/shops at all times in order to maintain social distancing.

A full list of these guidelines will be made available on the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers’ website.

Kemp easing restrictions and opening some businesses

Featured, Featured Stories, News
open Kemp

ATLANTA, Ga – In a 4 p.m. press conference Gov. Brian Kemp outlined a plan to reopen the Georgia economy in accordance with Phase One of President Trump’s plan.

Starting on Friday, April 24, gyms, fitness centers, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, estheticians, their respective schools, bowling alleys, and massage therapists can open back up. However, they must follow social distancing guidelines and sanitation policies.

“Unlike other businesses, these entities have been unable to manage inventory, deal with payroll, and take care of administrative items while we shelter in place. This measure allows them to undertake baseline operations that most other businesses in the state have maintained since I issued the shelter-in-place order,” stated Kemp.

On Monday, April 27, restaurants can reopen their in-dining services as long as social distance and sanitation protocols are in place.

Entertainment businesses like event venues and bars are still closed until data supports reopening.

Social distancing is still in place across Georgia and the Shelter in Place order is in effect until April 30.

“Do what you can to help those in need. For places of worship, holding in-person services is allowed, but under Phase One guidelines, it must be done in accordance with strict social distancing protocols, Kemp added. “I urge faith leaders to continue to help us in this effort and keep their congregations safe by heeding the advice of public health officials. Of course, online, call-in, or drive-in services remain good options for religious institutions.”

The governor stressed businesses that are being allowed to open back up to practice good common sense or he will take necessary steps. He added that cases will probably continue to go up, but the state is better equipped to combat the virus with more hospital beds and contact tracing.

Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey added that the number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia has plateaued and now in decline. She said that they are following the gating data standards as set by Dr. Deborah Birx and the COVID-19 task force.

Bar graph from DPH demonstrating daily change in confirmed cases.

Toomey said that Georgia will meet the two-week decline in cases by the time the April 30 shelter in place order ends. According to her, the death rate in Georgia has dramatically fallen. Toomey said this is due to more widespread testing and identifying cases earlier.

It should be noted that last week Georgia still had multiple days of over 700 new cases added during the daily reports. The highest confirmed cases day was on April 6, 2020. The highest death day was also on April 6 with 40 deaths recorded by DPH.

However, it’s been previously reported that DPH and associated labs have a backlog of tests to process. These numbers are still subject to change. More testing facilities are opening across the state, including Gilmer and Towns.

Also, several people who are either asymptomatic or demonstrating only minor symptoms are being tested for COVID-19, so these numbers could be much larger. Please continue to follow social distancing for the time being.

Graph depicting daily number of COVID-19 deaths.

Telemedicine Option

From Kemp’s press conference:

“As many of you know, Augusta University Health launched a telemedicine app as part of their comprehensive plan to screen, test, and treat Georgia patients through an algorithm designed by experts at the Medical College of Georgia. This app has enhanced public health while reducing exposure for our doctors, nurses, and medical staff. We are encouraging symptomatic Georgians to download the app this week and begin the screening process. Georgians can access the app by visiting AugustaHealth.org or downloading AU Health ExpressCare on your smartphone. You can also call (706) 721-1852. This free app is user-friendly, and through this app, physicians and advanced practice providers from Augusta University Health and the Medical College of Georgia are available to users twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If you begin to display symptoms consistent with COVID-19 – day or night – you can log onto AU Health’s telemedicine app or call to get screened by a clinician. If you meet criteria for testing, staff will contact you to schedule a test at one of the state’s designated testing locations near your home. Your healthcare information will be securely transmitted to your designated testing site.

“This streamlined process reduces stress on both the patient and testing site workers. Once you arrive for your appointment, you will provide a specimen for testing. From there, we will leverage the power of several key academic institutions in the state to process tests. These include Augusta University, Emory University, Georgia State University, and the Georgia Public Health Lab. In roughly seventy-two hours, you will be able to access your test results via a secure patient portal, and a medical provider will contact you directly if you are positive. The clinician will assist you with enrolling in a self-reporting app by Google named MTX where – with patient consent – the Department of Public Health can use enhanced contact monitoring and tracing.”

Here’s a link to Fetch Your News’ daily COVID-19 updates.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Monday, April 20, 2020

Towns County Schools release details concerning year end

Board of Education, Indian's Corner, State & National
school

HIAWASSEE, Ga – Towns County Schools issued details regarding the remainder of the school year on April 16. It addressed online instruction and remedial instruction.

The final school day will remain May 22, but the last day of online classes will by May 15 for those who demonstrated proficiency in the curriculum. These students will receive a passing grade for the school year.

However, students who need remedial instruction will continue to work with their teachers for the week of May 18 to May 22. Teachers will help students make up missing assignments or not passing a class.

“Our teachers are working harder than ever to ensure each student receives the education they need to be prepared for next year.  The community has given overwhelming support and understanding during these difficult times.  Our parents and guardians have stepped up to the task of helping educate students at home and keep them on track.  Together, our students will reach their highest potential,” stated Superintendent Darren Berrong.

The final week will also be used to coordinate times for the return of Chromebooks, wi-fi hot spots, and identifying times for students to safely clean out their lockers.

“This will be a task in itself as we will strategically plan these efforts around the social distancing guidelines. Each school will develop a plan for their students and will provide more information to you as we finalize those plans,” explained Berrong in his statement.

“Parents, please know that your child’s needs both educational and emotional have been and will continue to be our number one priority, said Berrong. “We are blessed to have a community and staff that truly love your children and are honored to serve them on a daily basis.”

Statement regarding the end of the school year from Superintendent Berrong.

 

More information about Gov. Kemp’s school closing order below:

ATLANTA, Ga – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed Executive Order 04.01.20.01 to close all public-school facilities through the end of the school year.

Kemp announced the order on April 1, along with his decision to implement a shelter in place directive until April 13. He first closed public K-12 schools on March 31 and had since extended the order until April 24.

The order applies to all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary public education facilities in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Georgia communities. As of April 1, the week of April 23 is predicted to be the tipping point in the Georgia outbreak.

Online learning will continue, and local school districts can determine the final day of classes. Also, faculty and staff can return to their classrooms once school districts determine it is safe for employees to enter the campus.

Georgia Department of Public Health and Department of Education are taking measures to ensure the nutrition and safety needs of students are being met during this time.

A testing waiver for public schools was approved earlier in the year. No student will take Georgia Milestones.

This order does not apply to the University System of Georgia or the Technical College System of Georgia. The Chancellor of the University System and Commissioner of the Technical College System reserve the right to make decisions about their respective campuses across Georgia.

Kemp asks Georgians to worship remotely on Easter

Press Release, State & National
Easter

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp urged Georgians to plan for online or call-in religious services, including Easter Sunday on April 12.

“I greatly appreciate faith leaders across our state who have made the tough decision to stop the spread of COVID-19 by suspending in-person religious services. Their leadership is literally saving lives,” said Governor Kemp. “To all Georgians celebrating Easter this Sunday, I am pleading with you to not attend any services in person. If you attend worship services in person, you risk exposure to coronavirus – potentially endangering your life, the lives of your neighbors, and your loved ones. I know this decision is difficult, but we will get through this together.”

For drive-in services, law enforcement have received reports that people are not staying in their vehicles. For example, people will leave their cars to let their children play, go to nearby restrooms, or otherwise congregate.

Kemp suspends short-term vacation rentals, parks remain open

News, State & National
vacation rental

ATLANTA, Ga – After issuing an extended shelter in place, Gov. Brian Kemp finally instituted a ban on short-term vacation rentals to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, the governor stopped short of closing state parks and beaches despite numerous calls from local governments to do so.

“I have also heard the concerns of many hardworking Georgians, including local elected officials, who fear that our state will become a vacation destination. As a result, and in accordance with public health guidance, I have signed an order to suspend short-term vacation rentals across Georgia,” stated Kemp.

The short-term rental ban identifies vacation rentals as residential properties that can be leased for 30 days or less and can be let by a third-party broker. The licensor is a limited liability corporation, corporation, partnership, person, or any other entity; and the licensee is a private person.

It DOES NOT apply to hotels, motels, campgrounds, extended-stay hotels, commercial transactions, and leases that serve as a person’s primary residence.

Additionally, any rental paid in full by 12:00 a.m. on April 9, 2020, may keep their reservation.

The order won’t prevent people from occupying their personal property.

Law enforcement is authorized to enforce the order, but not to evict anyone in a vacation rental.

Beginning at 12:00 a.m. on April 9, the ban will expire on April 30 at 11:59 p.m.

When asked about the closing of the state parks and beaches, Kemp said only 300 people visited the beaches over the weekend and everyone practiced social distancing.

Earlier in the week, 12 North Georgia Commission Chairmen joined together to ask Kemp to close state parks and the Mayor of Tybee Island also issued a statement expressing his dissatisfaction with Kemp’s decision to open state beaches and park.

As of now, all his state parks reports indicated everyone was following CDC guidelines and he sees no reason to close the parks. Kemp did say he would revisit the issue if he discovers park visitors aren’t practicing social distancing.

Kemp also reasoned that when gyms and other exercise facilities close, people will want to go somewhere to receive physical activity.

Long-Term Care Update

Except from Kemp’s speech:

“The Georgia Department of Public Health has determined that COVID-19 is spreading through nursing homes, inpatient hospice, assisted living communities, personal care homes, intermediate care homes, community living arrangements, and community integration homes. We have dramatically increased access to resources to these facilities to mitigate exposure, but we have to do more to protect these Georgians.

“Earlier today, I signed an executive order extending Georgia’s public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020. This measure will allow us to deploy more resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our healthcare facilities. I appreciate Lt. Governor Duncan, Speaker Ralston, and the General Assembly for working with us to ensure resources are available to proactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This afternoon, I also signed an executive order mandating more aggressive infection control measures at long-term care facilities across Georgia. I’ll outline a few, key requirements. Facilities must adopt infectious disease transfer protocols with nearby hospitals. Visitors and non-essential personnel are strictly prohibited except in compassionate care situations. If feasible, these facilities must provide in-room dining services, and all group activities are canceled. Employees must wash or sanitize their hands after any interaction with a resident. Facilities must implement protocols to screen residents for fever and respiratory symptoms, and employees must be screened before starting a shift. If an employee is exposed, to the extent feasible, he or she must self-quarantine for fourteen days before returning to work. Facilities are required to implement universal and correct use of personal protective equipment, and we stand ready to coordinate delivery of supplies. Facilities must utilize hospital-grade disinfectants for frequent cleaning. If possible, residents with symptoms of respiratory infection need to be placed together, and facilities should have specific employees working only on affected units. To ensure compliance, I am empowering the Department of Public Health, National Guard, and Department of Community Health to issue directives to facilities to prevent, monitor, and treat COVID-19.

“Today, I am also signing an executive order to activate 1,000 additional National Guard members to assist in COVID-19 emergency response.

“In accordance with public health recommendations, I am also extending the statewide shelter in place order through April 30, 2020. All of the provisions of the statewide shelter in place order will remain in effect. I want to thank everyone who followed these directives, and I appreciate your patience.”

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Kemp and DECAL issue statement concerning essential travel

Press Release, State & National
DECAL

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp and Amy M. Jacobs, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), issued the following joint statement regarding measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring that our state’s essential workforce has access to licensed childcare.

“On Thursday, April 2, 2020, the Executive Order to Ensure a Safe & Healthy Georgia – commonly called the shelter-in-place order – was issued. The order became effective beginning Friday, April 3 at 6:00 PM and is set to expire Monday, April 13 at 11:59 PM. This order allows all licensed childcare facilities to remain open subject to certain restrictions, including social distancing and sanitation.

“We have received recent reports of law enforcement stopping people to ask for a letter authorizing their travel. The Executive Order to Ensure a Safe & Healthy Georgia does not require any worker to carry an authorization letter on Georgia’s roads. As a result, the order allows for any necessary travel by workers and families to and from a childcare facility during this public health emergency.

“Parents with children in private childcare represent Georgia’s hardworking families with jobs that are critical to supporting themselves and the larger community. Essential workers such as nurses, doctors, first responders, and state and municipal employees rely on childcare to allow them to perform the critical functions so desperately needed in a public health emergency. From the fireman to the stocker at the grocery store, without access to quality, licensed childcare, many of these workers would be forced to stay home, putting further stress on the system responding to this pandemic.

“Continuing to work closely with the Governor’s Office, Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DECAL is prepared to lead our state’s efforts in assisting our youngest children and their families through this unprecedented time. We will continue partnering with the childcare industry and advocates of early childhood education to creatively address the challenges we face now and the new challenges that will emerge going forward.

Kemp, Duncan, Ralston announce plans to extend Public Health State of Emergency

Press Release, State & National
public health emergency

Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, and House Speaker David Ralston announced plans to extend Georgia’s public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Under state law, the Governor may renew the public health state of emergency, which was otherwise set to expire on April 13, 2020. Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston agree it is necessary for the public health emergency to be renewed and will not be requesting a special legislative session, which was tentatively scheduled for April 15, 2020.

“To ensure the health and well-being of Georgians, I will extend the public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020. 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 healthcare facilities. 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,” said Governor Kemp. “I appreciate Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston continuing to work with us to ensure resources are available to proactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I thank them for their support of an extended emergency declaration. In these unprecedented times, we ask Georgians for their continued patience and prayers, especially for first responders, law enforcement, and the healthcare workers caring for the medically fragile. They are going above and beyond to keep us all safe, and we will never be able to repay them for their sacrifices.”

“We must continue our aggressive fight against COVID-19,” said Lt. Governor Duncan. “By extending the public health state of emergency, we can ensure Georgians have access to every available state resource during this crisis. Together, Speaker Ralston and I are working closely with Governor Kemp to do all we can to make sure we are meeting the needs of every Georgian. The General Assembly will continue to remain vigilant and available to assist our citizens in any way possible.”

“The entirety of our state government is working to protect the health and safety of our citizens, and I appreciate the work of our state personnel and first responders during this challenging time,” said Speaker David Ralston. “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.”

Gov. Kemp issues guidance for retailers, consumers amid COVID-19

Press Release, State & National
consumers retailers guidance

Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp joined the American Transaction Processors Coalition, Georgia Retail Association, and Georgia Food Industry Association in issuing guidance regarding the use of PIN numbers and other best practices at points of purchase as Georgia continues to fight the spread of COVID-19.

Consumer Tips:

If a contactless payment option is available (e.g., Apple Pay, or tap and pay), use it.

Clean your payment cards using soap, hand sanitizer, or alcohol after each use.

Maintain control of your card, whenever possible, rather than handing it to the merchant.

If asked for a signature, PIN, or other information at the payment terminal, use your own pen (for signing) or personal stylus (for touchscreens) if you can.

If using home delivery services, pay in advance through a website, app, or telephone.

Merchant and ATM Owner Tips:

Merchants and ATM owners are encouraged to clean and disinfect terminals frequently and implement some changes to the payment process to reduce consumer interaction with equipment.

Follow manufacturer guidelines to protect and care for payment terminals.

Use 60% or higher alcohol-based hand sanitizer, card reader cleaners, alcohol-based disinfectant wipes (NO BLEACH), or glass cleaner.

Clean checkout and payment terminal area frequently (or after each transaction, if possible). Consider all checkout touchpoints (e.g., payment terminal including PIN pad, check lane counter and merchandise dividers, self-checkout lanes).

When cleaning the terminal, do not clean the electrical connections and plugs.

Never spray any product directly onto the terminal. Use a cloth or wipe that has been sprayed instead.

Governor Kemp’s shelter in place order allows for the suspension of the use of PIN pads, PIN entry devices, electronic capture signature, and any other credit card receipt signature requirements if it is permitted by underlying credit card agency and company agreements. Retailers should ensure EBT card users can continue to access PIN pads to enter this information during transactions.

Gov. Kemp Provides Overview of Federal Guidance to Mitigate COVID-19 in Nursing Homes

Press Release, State & National
nursing homes

Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp provided an overview of the recommendations President Trump and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued, in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Nursing homes, also known as skilled nursing facilities, nursing facilities, or long-term care facilities, have become an accelerator for COVID-19. This is because residents, who are generally comprised of a vulnerable population, are even more vulnerable to the complications of the virus in enclosed environments like nursing homes.

The recommendations are as follows:

  • Nursing homes should immediately ensure that they are complying with all CMS and CDC guidance related to infection control.
  • As nursing homes are a critical part of the healthcare system, and because of the ease of spread in long-term care facilities and the severity of illness that occurs in residents with COVID-19, CMS/CDC urge state and local leaders to consider the needs of long-term care facilities with respect to supplies of PPE and COVID-19 tests.
  • The facilities should immediately implement symptom screening for all staff, residents, and visitors, including temperature checks.
  • All staff must use appropriate PPE when they are interacting with patients and residents, to the extent PPE is available and per CDC guidance on conservation of PPE.

To avoid transmission, facilities should use separate staffing teams for residents to the best of their ability, and as President Trump announced at the White House on April 2, 2020, the administration urges nursing homes to work with state and local leaders to designate separate facilities or units within a facility to separate COVID-19 negative residents from COVID-19 positive residents and individuals with unknown COVID-19 status.

These recommendations will help long-term care facilities as they consider how to best prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities. For more information on CMS actions, please visit cms.gov.

Georgia DPH adjusts COVID-19 models to include asymptomatic transmission

News, Police & Government, State & National
asymptomatic

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga – As of April 1, Georgia had 4,748 cases and 20,328 completed COVID-19 tests, but Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has only tested symptomatic and high-risk patients. As a result, some cases have gone undiagnosed across Georgia.

Currently, DPH is following CDC guidelines, which still states online that not everyone needs to be tested for COVID-19. Most people who contract the virus will recover and can care for themselves at home. CDC gave healthcare workers four priority categories to help decide who receives tests.

Asymptomatic individuals were ranked last, and those exhibiting mild symptoms or subjected to potential community spread should only be tested if resources are available.

White County Public Safety Director David Murphy went on record about the issue.

“Some people take care of themselves at home and never go to a doctor, especially those who have minor symptoms,” he explained. Murphy added that White County first responders have encountered a dozen or more patients with coronavirus symptoms in the last two weeks.

DPH guidance for healthcare facilities when it comes to testing lower priority potential cases is as follows:

Patients with mild illness who do not require medical care or who are not a DIRECT contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case (meaning the person has NOT been within 6 feet of a confirmed case for greater than 10 minutes, will not meet criteria to be tested at GPHL but can be tested at commercial labs—see below:

These patients should self-isolate at home until symptoms resolve. If respiratory symptoms worsen, they may need to be re-evaluated. Guidance for safe home care can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-homecare.html.

If you want to test these patients for COVID-19, commercial laboratory testing is the best option. Commercial laboratories are expected to conduct a substantial number of COVID-19 tests going forward. Currently, the primary source of testing is LabCorp, but we expect other laboratories will be testing in the near future as well, including Quest and ARUP. Neither LabCorp nor Quest will collect specimens at their facilities. Providers should contact LabCorp or Quest regarding supplies needed for testing.

DPH Commissioner Kathleen Toomey addressed that asymptomatic individuals in Georgia aren’t being tested but could be transmitting the virus to numerous Georgians. The state and DPH now believe the time is now appropriate to take “very aggressive measures.”

“We have not been testing everybody. We have only been testing those who have symptoms and those who are the most ill. And now, we recognize a game-changer, in how our strategy to fight COVID has unfolded. We realize now that individuals may be spreading the virus and not even realize they have an infection. As many as 1 in 4 people with coronavirus don’t realize they have the infection because they have no symptoms whatsoever,” explained Toomey.

“Finding out that this virus is now transmitting before they see signs,” remarked Gov. Brian Kemp. “Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad.”

Kemp is expected to sign a shelter in place order on Thursday, April 2 to prevent people from ignoring self-quarantine recommendations. The details on the order are yet to be released.

Toomey further voiced that they knew asymptomatic community spread was possible due to the cruise ship cases. As of March 4, the CDC website also stated that asymptomatic spread is possible, but not as common as among individuals who are visibly sick.

Until the past 24-hours, all the DPH models relied on data solely from patients with symptoms.

“I think it’s a combination of recognizing not only that there are probably a large number of people out there who are infected who are asymptomatic, who never would have been recognized under our old models, but also seeing the community transmission that we’re seeing and now is the time to stop that transmission before the hospitals are overrun,” said Toomey.

How can Georgians prevent exposure/slow the spread?

Follow the CDC guidelines:

  • Wash hands for at least 20 seconds – wash often
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces
  • Avoid social contact and stay home
  • Social distance if in public – stay six feet apart from each other
  • Avoid touching the face – mouth, nose, eyes
  • If sick, stay home
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it away
  • Wear a facemask if sick

By following these guidelines and Kemp’s shelter-in-place order, Georgian’s should be able to flatten the curve and hopefully protect themselves and loved ones.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Kemp, Williams: Officials Will Enforce Social Distancing at Parks, Lakes

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natural resources

Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp joined Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams to issue the following joint statement:

“Across Georgia, there is a mandatory shelter in place order for medically fragile individuals, and gatherings of more than ten people are banned unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. This order applies to all 159 counties.

“Fortunately, many Georgians are heeding these directives and following the advice of public health officials to stay safe and healthy. However, as we deal with the effects of coronavirus with school and business closures, people are eager for a change in scenery after days at home. They are traveling to nearby counties, heading outdoors for fresh air, and maximizing family time. Some are going to vacation homes, and others are hitting the lake, hiking trails, or campgrounds. We, too, enjoy exploring Georgia, but we urge people to stay mindful of social distancing, follow best practices, and avoid large crowds.

“The Department of Natural Resources will enforce the executive order limiting large gatherings with officials patrolling bodies of water and campgrounds. They are monitoring coves where people tend to congregate and, if necessary, using bullhorns to tell people to comply with the order. Officials will approach people in violation of the order and demand compliance for the well-being of our citizens and state. Local officials are also working hard to ensure compliance with local directives, which vary by city and county across our state.

“Please stay safe, enjoy your time outdoors, and follow our directives to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Together, we can flatten the curve and stop the spread of coronavirus.”

Georgia Receives SBA Statewide Disaster Declaration

News, State & National
SBA

Atlanta, GA – On March 18, Governor Brian P. Kemp announced that Georgia has received an official statewide disaster declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). This declaration will provide assistance in the form of SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans to impacted small businesses in all 159 counties in Georgia.

“This is great news for Georgia small business owners,” said Governor Kemp. “As we continue to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on our economy, small business owners can apply for much-needed funding to continue operation and pay their employees. My thanks to the Trump Administration for their swift action to protect small business owners throughout the country.”

The application is now live, and Georgia small business owners can go directly to the SBA for assistance. Small business owners should visit www.disasterloan.sba.gov for information and the application.

Loans are available for small business and non-profit organizations. While terms will be established on a case-by-case basis, many will have a thirty-year repayment term with first payments not due for up to twelve months. Businesses should expect to provide a tax transcript, financial statements, and a profit and loss statement. Interest rates will range from 2.75% to 3.75%.

For more information, concerning Kemp’s action’s during COVID-19, click here.

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