COVID-19 Update (April 2, 2020)

COVID-19 RESOURCES
For the most up-to-date information on coronavirus and how best to protect yourself and your family, please check the following:
Georgia Department of Public Health
Centers for Disease Prevention & Control

GA Department of Public Health hotline: 1-844-442-2681

To view my past updates on Georgia’s response to COVID-19, please visit my website here.

Gov. Kemp orders statewide stay-at-home

Yesterday, Gov. Kemp announced a statewide stay-at-home order, the full details of which he issued just moments ago. I have included below answers to what I anticipate most of your questions will be. You can find the full text of the Governor’s Executive Order here.

How long will the order remain in effect?

The order will remain in effect through April 13th, the day our current state-of-emergency declaration expires. Georgia law only allows states of emergency to be declared for 30 days at a time but allows the Governor to renew the declaration, subject to ratification by the General Assembly. The current declaration was issued on March 14th and expires on April 13th. So, I expect that Gov. Kemp will renew the state of emergency on April 13th, the General Assembly will likely ratify the declaration when we convene for a special session on April 15th, and Gov. Kemp may decide to extend the stay-at-home order through the end of April, in accordance with the directives issued by the federal government.

 

What restrictions are in place?

    • All residents and visitors in Georgia must practice social distancing and sanitation in accordance with CDC guidelines.
    • All residents and visitors in Georgia must stay at home, taking every precaution to limit social interaction, unless they are 1) conducting “Essential Services”, 2) performing necessary travel, 3) engaged in “Minimum Basic Operations” for a business, or 4) are part of the workforce for “Critical Infrastructure” and actively engaged in their employment.
    • All residents and visitors in Georgia shall not receive new visitors, except those necessary for medical or daily living support, those providing necessary supplies and services, and “those received during end-of-life circumstances.”
    • An exception is made to the shelter-in-place provisions for emergency situations.
    • No business shall allow more than 10 people to stand or be seated within 6 feet of one another.
    • All restaurants and private social clubs shall cease dine-in services.
    • All gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, live performance venues, operators of amusement rides, body art studios, hair designers, cosmetology shops/salons/schools, and bars must cease in-person operations and close to the public until further notice.

 

Can I leave my home to buy groceries, medical supplies, etc.?

Yes. Residents are allowed to leave their homes to conduct “Essential Services,” to include: obtaining necessary supplies and services for family and household members, such as food, medical supplies/medications, supplies and equipment needed to work from home, and those needed to maintain safety and sanitation. Online ordering is preferred when and where possible.

 

Can I leave my home to exercise?

Yes. Residents are allowed to leave their homes to conduct “Essential Services,” to include: engaging in outdoor exercise activities so long as 6-feet social distancing is employed between all persons who do not live together.

 

How can I be tested for COVID-19?

If you are sick or exhibiting flu-like symptoms, please follow this guidance from the CDC. Due to the limited number of testing kits, Georgia is prioritizing testing for those who are: 1) first responders, 2) healthcare providers, or 3) 65 years or older with a 100.4 degree or higher temperature. To receive a test, you must go through your primary care provider, who can order a test from the Georgia Department of Public Health. For more information, please call the DPH COVID-19 hotline at 1-844- 442-2681.

 

What took Gov. Kemp so long to declare a statewide stay-at-home?

This question will be litigated for many more days to come, but Gov. Kemp has consistently stated his reluctance to implement statewide restrictions that would negatively impact Georgia’s economy, particularly in rural parts of the state. Yet the fact remains that Georgia is one of the last states to implement a statewide stay-at-home order (37th state to do so), despite being one of the states hardest hit by the pandemic (Georgia has one of the highest numbers of positive cases, ranking 12th in number of cases per capita). And our statistics are likely to be underreporting the actual number of positive cases and deaths in Georgia, as we have conducted some of the fewest tests in the country (40 states have conducted more testing than Georgia, per capita).

 

Strangely, the reason Gov. Kemp gave at his press conference yesterday for his delayed action was because Georgia had only learned “in the past 24 hours” that asymptomatic individuals could spread the virus, and thus, when Georgia––only yesterday––adjusted the state’s projections to account for transmission from asymptomatic individuals, “this revelation [wa]s a game-changer.” But that explanation belies the obvious. We know federal public health officials have known about and have been publicly discussing transmission by asymptomatic people for months now––that was the whole reason to have the general public shelter in place. For example, Dr. Anthony Fauci told reporters on January 31st that “there’s no doubt” asymptomatic people can spread the virus.

 

Needless to say, I find Gov. Kemp’s rationale here alarming. Right now, I have a lot more questions than I do answers, and I’m sure you do, too. For now, I’m focused on keeping you updated with information from the state as soon as it becomes available. I will keep you posted as we learn more.

SCHOOLS: Public schools finished for the academic year

Gov. Kemp signed an Executive Order yesterday closing all public schools for in-person instruction through the end of the 2019–20 academic year. You can read the full text of the order here. This does not prevent school districts from continuing online instruction programs.

For full information about the impact to your local school, please check your school district’s website.

This afternoon, University System of Georgia Chancellor Wrigley announced:
“May and summer semester instruction will be delivered remotely with limited exceptions. USG institutions will return to normal operations for fall semester assuming health conditions allow for it.”

CENSUS: National Census Day was yesterday

Have you completed your Census questionnaire yet? Please do so today, if you haven’t already, by visiting my2020census.gov.

ELECTION: Request your Absentee Ballot for May 19th Georgia Primary

All “active” registered voters will receive in the mail over the coming days an application for an absentee ballot for the May 19th primary election. Please go ahead and fill it out and mail it back to your county election office so that they can send you an absentee ballot.

Whether the election will be held on May 19th remains uncertain. Georgia House Speaker Ralston has called for the election to be postponed, which was echoed by every Georgia Republican in Congress. Today we learned why he is pushing so hard to get the election moved: because if more Georgians vote, he believes it “will be extremely devastating to Republicans and conservatives in Georgia.” You can hear his comments for yourself here.

Obviously, public health concerns will need to be taken into account, and we have to get through April before we know what the landscape looks like in May. However, to move the election again will require an act by the Legislature, which is scheduled for another special session on April 15th. So, stay tuned. But in the meantime, please go ahead and request your absentee ballot so we can ensure your vote is counted.

TONIGHT: Rep. McBath hosts Tele-Town Hall

Tune in tonight at 7:30pm for a Telephone Town Hall with Rep. Lucy McBath. She will be discussing the CARES Act relief package and will be joined by health and small business experts from the Small Business Administration. You can sign-up for a reminder and participate here.

COVID-19 App

Apple Inc. – in partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – released an app and website that guides Americans through a series of questions about their health and exposure to determine if they should seek care for COVID-19 symptoms.  The tool provides CDC recommendations on next steps including guidance on social distancing and self-isolating, how to closely monitor symptoms, recommendations on testing, and when to contact a medical provider.

More information on the app is available here, including links to download.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance to you.

Stay safe,
Matthew