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.

Free COVID-19 Testing in North GA Memorial Day Weekend

Health, Lifestyle

Georgia DPH distributes Remdesivir to hospitals for treatment of COVID-19

Health, Press Release
remdesivir

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is distributing an initial allotment of the drug Remdesivir received from the federal government. Georgia received 30 cases, with 40 vials of the drug per case, enough to treat about 110 patients, depending on the duration of an individual’s treatment. Remdesivir is an antiviral medicine being used to treat hospitalized patients with serious symptoms caused by COVID-19 like low oxygen levels or pneumonia. It has been found to shorten the duration of disease in patients being treated in inpatient hospital settings.

Remdesivir is given intravenously (IV) and decreases the amount of coronavirus in the body, helping patients recover faster.

The distribution plan for Remdesivir in Georgia was developed by DPH leadership, including district health directors and emergency preparedness staff, in accordance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for its use. It is based on the number of patients on ventilators, the most severely ill, and clinical best practices.

Georgia hospitals receiving Remdesivir reported 10 or more COVID-19 positive patients on ventilators, in addition to patients currently being treated with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a machine that takes over the work of the heart and lungs. These criteria are subject to change based on the availability of Remdesivir and
the development of patient care at hospital facilities across the state.

The following hospitals are receiving Remdesivir; Tift Regional Medical Center, Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Wellstar Kennestone Hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Grady Health System, Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown, and Augusta University Medical Center.

“DPH is pleased to have the opportunity to share this promising treatment with hospitals on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H., DPH commissioner. “While this drug is not a cure for COVID-19, getting it into the hospitals and improving patient outcomes is moving in the right direction.”

Georgia has received a second, much larger allotment of Remdesivir. DPH is surveying hospitals statewide over the weekend to determine need. This second allotment will be distributed next week.

Gilead Sciences, Inc. committed to supplying approximately 607,000 vials of the experimental drug over the next six weeks to treat an estimated 78,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients under an emergency use agreement (EUA). The donation to the United States is part of 1.5 million vials of Remdesivir the company is donating worldwide.

Remdesivir has not been approved by the FDA for widespread use because it is considered investigational, and it is still being studied. Remdesivir was originally developed for use against Ebola. Clinical trials for Remdesivir were done in Georgia at Emory University Hospital.

For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook

COVID-19 testing available to all Georgians

Press Release
testing

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has reached its goal of testing 100,000 individuals in 10 days. More than 108,000 tests were processed since Commissioner Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H, set the DPH goal last week.

“This is an important benchmark for Georgia as we work to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the state,” said Toomey. “Increased testing is critical to understanding where there are hotspots of infection and how best to mitigate them.”

Effective immediately, testing is available to all Georgians who request it, whether they have symptoms or not. There are more than 65 specimen point of collection sites (SPOC) throughout the state, with an additional 30 mobile SPOCs –  locations and hours vary daily.

Individuals wanting to be tested can contact any Georgia public health department to schedule an appointment at a SPOC location convenient to them. Contact information for local health departments can be found on the DPH homepage at

https://dph.georgia.gov/.

For more information about COVID-19 visit https://dph.georgia.gov/novelcoronavirus or https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and @GovKemp on Twitter, and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook.

Kemp changes restaurant and childcare restrictions

Announcements, State & National
childcare

ATLANTA, Ga – On May 12, Gov. Brian Kemp continued to ease restrictions on certain industries – restaurants and childcare – to assist Ga businesses as the state returns to normal.

Childcare facilities now can operate with up to 20 children in a classroom instead of 10 as long as the instructor-to-child ratio is maintained. Departments of Early Care and Learning and Public Health reportedly okayed this expansion and ensured it could be accomplished safely.

Many parents in Ga are returning to work and have encountered difficulty finding childcare services.

“Childcare facilities must continue to adhere to thirteen minimum, mandatory criteria to be able to operate, including strict screening procedures and sanitation mandates for frequently touched items and surfaces. In that same vein, countless families have reached out to my office to discuss how summer camps can safely operate as we battle the spread of COVID-19,” Kemp explained.

Summer day camps have also received the okay to open on May 14 if facilities can meet the 32 requirements developed by the Department of Public Health, constituents, and summer camp operators. The CDC has yet to weigh in on the criteria, but Kemp appeared confident that their plan would move forward.

However, overnight camps are still closed, but eventually, these facilities might be able to open under a case by case basis.

As for restaurants, those who have already opened or considering opening can now allow up to 10 patrons per 300 sq. feet and seat groups of 10. Previously the maximum number at a table was six.

Kemp praised the food industry, “Throughout this pandemic, our restaurant owners and their employees have done a remarkable job in keeping local families fed. These hardworking Georgians have followed the rules, doing the right thing, even when it wasn’t easy.”

Live performance venues, bars, and nightclubs must remain closed through May 31, 2020.

The social distancing and gathering ban on more than 10 people are still in effect unless six feet of separation is possible. The ban applied 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. Georgians can expect these protocols to last through at least the end of the month.

“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,” Kemp added. “The shelter in place provision for medically fragile and Georgians aged 65 and older remains in effect through June 12, 2020.”

Starting on May 18, state agencies will begin transitioning back into in-office services.

As of noon today, Georgia has received its first shipment of Remdesivir from the federal government – thirty cases with forty vials of the drug per case. The Department of Public Health will determine how it will be distributed.

Nursing Home Testing

Georgia’s National Guard has tested 46% of all nursing home residents and 24% of staff at those facilities. However, an estimated 46,000 people who still need to be tested. In total, the Guard has tested 142 nursing homes. The National Guard will continue to test everyone at these facilities until they reach 100 percent.

The press conference did address the re-testing of facilities is new cases are found after the initial testing. Department of Community Health releases daily updates on the status of COVID-19 in nursing homes across Ga.

“As we aggressively test more nursing homes and long-term care facilities, we may see a sharper increase in positive test results. By doing this, it will allow medical providers to intervene earlier and try to mitigate adverse outcomes among vulnerable Georgians. Right now, nursing home, assisted living, and personal care home residents and staff make up 18.5% of our total positive cases, and 49% of total deaths involve nursing home, assisted living, and personal care home residents. We ask everyone to continue to protect the elderly and medically fragile, and we will continue to work around the clock to ensure quick, convenient testing is available for all Georgians,” Kemp explained.

Anyone in Ga can now be tested for COVID-19 either through their local health departments or by downloading the Augusta University ExpressCare app, visit augustahealth.org, or call (706) 721-1852.

“With nearly 250 staff in the field today, the Department of Public Health is making progress. Under the leadership of Dr. Toomey, DPH plans to have 1,000 staff deployed in the coming weeks. To streamline contact tracing across the state, we are rolling out a new online monitoring tool – the Healthy Georgia Collaborative – which allows Georgians to identify contacts and monitor symptoms. Health data remains completely confidential. This monitoring tool does not collect any data other than what is entered by the contact. This is how the process works: residents who test positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by trained public health staff, who will work with that individual to recall anyone that they might’ve had close contact with while infectious. Those contacts will then be interviewed by DPH to help us map and isolate the spread of COVID-19 in communities across the state. If you are contacted by DPH staff, we strongly encourage you to participate in the contact tracing program,” Kemp said about contact tracing.

The governor also urged anyone who needs to visit their doctor for regular appointments or concerns outside of COVID-19 to please do so. Doctors’ offices and emergency rooms have protocols in place to prevent individuals from contracting the virus. Now is not a time to gamble with anyone’s health to avoid COVID-19.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Blue Angels, Thunderbirds to flyover Atlanta on Saturday

Announcements, State & National

ATLANTA, Ga – The Blue Angels and Thunderbird flyover on May 2 is in support of the state’s frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19.

It will begin over Marietta at 1:35 p.m. and last 25 minutes, ending at 2 p.m. The Thunderbirds and Blue Angels flight path will take them over Buckhead, Sandy Springs,  up to Roswell. The formations will then turn to the south over downtown, Atlanta airport, Fayetteville, and Peachtree City.

Residents are asked to safely view the flyover from their home-quarantine and to refrain from traveling. Social distancing should also be practiced.

Flight path for May 2.

These times are subject to change.

“America Strong is a way for both teams to show appreciation to the thousands of doctors, nurses, first responders, and essential workers out there serving on the frontline day-in and day-out,” said Cmdr. Brian Kesselring, U.S. Navy Blue Angels commanding officer and flight leader for the flyover. “This is an extraordinary and unprecedented time but we will get through this. We are all in this together.”

A formation of 6 F-16C/D Fighting Falcon and 6 F/A-18C/D Hornet aircraft will conduct these flyovers as a collaborative salute to healthcare workers, first responders, military, and other essential personnel while standing in solidarity with all Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This mission, the second of several planned over the coming weeks, is the culmination of more than a month of planning and coordination between the two teams and numerous city and government offices.

The teams welcome and encourage viewers to tag the demonstration teams at @AFThunderbirds and @BlueAngels the flyover on social media with the hashtag #AmericaStrong and #Inthistogether.

For photos and video for America Strong, visit, https://www.dvidshub.net/feature/americastrong.

For more information on the Blue Angels, visit www.blueangels.navy.mil.

For more information on the Thunderbirds, visit www.afthunderbirds.com.

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.

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.

DPH Release – Expanded Testing For COVID-19 In Georgia

Featured, Health

Revised Testing Criteria and Increased Number of Test Sites

Atlanta – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is increasing the number of specimen
collection sites statewide for COVID-19 testing, and is revising the current testing criteria to
accommodate more testing of Georgia residents.

Effective immediately, all symptomatic individuals will be eligible for COVID-19 testing. Health
care workers, first responders, law enforcement and long-term care facility residents and staff will
still be prioritized for testing regardless of whether they are or are not symptomatic.
Referrals are still required, however, there are now two ways to be referred to a DPH specimen
collection site:

Local Health Department –
Individuals who meet COVID-19 testing criteria may now be referred to DPH specimen collection
sites by contacting their local health department. They will be screened by appropriate health
department staff and referred to the closest, most convenient specimen collection site.

Contact information for local health departments can be found on the DPH homepage, under COVID-19 in Georgia.

Health Care Provider Referral –
Health care providers and/or physicians can and should continue to refer patients for COVID-19
testing.

People should not arrive unannounced or without a scheduled appointment at a specimen
collection site, hospital, emergency room or other health care facility. Only individuals who have
been evaluated by public health or a health care provider and assigned a PUI # number will
be referred to these drive-thru sites.

Together we can stop further spread of COVID-19 in our state and save lives.

Stay home – the Governor has issued a shelter-in-place Executive Order that should be observed
by all residents and visitors.

Practice social distancing – keep at least 6 feet between yourself and other people.

Wash your hands – use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based
hand sanitizer (60% alcohol) if soap and water aren’t readily available.
Wear a mask – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the use of face
masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, especially where socials distancing is difficult to
maintain (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.), and especially in areas of significant community-
based transmission.

For more information about COVID-19 Click here or
Click Here.

For updates on the COVID-19 situation as it develops, follow @GaDPH, @GeorgiaEMA, and
@GovKemp on Twitter and @GaDPH, @GEMA.OHS, and @GovKemp on Facebook.

Collins urges Windstream to provide increased access to rural broadband

Press Release, State & National
Windstream

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Reps. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), and Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.) today sent a letter to Windstream underscoring the importance of providing increased access to broadband – particularly in rural areas – in the midst of COVID-19.

“As representatives of thousands of Windstream customers, we write today regarding the impact coronavirus has had on broadband access in rural communities throughout Georgia,” they wrote. “In the past, we have written to you regarding the inadequate internet service our constituents are receiving despite your company’s acceptance of federal dollars to expand access. While we know Windstream has upgraded some areas that are more populated and less rural, many of our constituents continue to struggle with poor broadband speeds.”

For years, Windstream customers across Georgia have consistently struggled to gain access to reliable broadband speeds. Congress has taken significant steps toward expanding rural broadband infrastructure in recent years, including securing federal funding to providers in rural areas. However, some carriers – like Windstream – have failed to provide adequate broadband speeds to consumers despite collecting taxpayer dollars. As this pandemic is forcing more and more Georgians to rely on the internet, access to reliable broadband is more critical than ever before.

“Due to the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of Georgians are being forced to work, learn, and recreate from home. This undoubtedly has increased the strain on the networks your consumers depend upon. Over the past several years, we have heard complaints of a network that is overburdened and cannot keep up during peak use. Even though we have been calling for increased internet access in rural areas for years, this moment in time shows that Windstream has yet to meet the mark.”

Read the full letter here.

Georgia Primary moves to June 9 after extension of public health emergency

Press Release, State & National
Georgia Primary

(ATLANTA) — Today, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that, pursuant to the authority vested in him by O.C.G.A. § 21-2-50.1, he is postponing the Statewide General Primary/Presidential Preference Primary Election until June 9, 2020.

Yesterday, Governor Brian Kemp extended the current public health state of emergency until May 13, 2020. Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and Speaker of the House David Ralston concurred in the Governor’s extension of the state of emergency.

“Due to the Governor’s extension of the state of emergency through a time period that includes almost every day of in-person voting for an election on May 19, and after careful consideration, I am now comfortable exercising the authority vested in me by Georgia law to postpone the primary election until June 9,” said Secretary Raffensperger. “This decision allows our office and county election officials to continue to put in place contingency plans to ensure that voting can be safe and secure when in-person voting begins and prioritizes the health and safety of voters, county election officials, and poll workers.”

Throughout this crisis, the Secretary of State’s office has been in close contact with county election officials across the state. Over the past week, the reports of mounting difficulties from county election officials, particularly in Southwest Georgia, grew to a point where county election officials could not overcome the challenges brought on by COVID-19 in time for in-person voting to begin on April 27. Additionally, current modeling by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia will peak around April 24, only days before in-person voting was scheduled to begin. While challenges will certainly remain on June 9, these additional three weeks will give the Secretary of State’s office and counties time to shore up contingency plans, find and train additional poll workers, and procure supplies and equipment necessary to clean equipment and protect poll workers.

Emergency authority is something that should be exercised carefully, and moving an election should only take place in the rarest of circumstances. While Secretary Raffensperger previously expressed concern that he did not have the authority to move the primary election again, the Governor’s extension of the state of emergency to a time that includes almost every day of in-person voting for a May 19 election is sufficient to allow the Secretary to exercise the emergency authority given to him by O.C.G.A. § 21-2-50.1 and move the primary election to June 9.

“I certainly realize that every difficulty will not be completely solved by the time in-person voting begins for the June 9 election, but elections must happen even in less than ideal circumstances,” said Raffensperger. “Just like our brave healthcare workers and first responders, our county election officials and poll workers are undertaking work critical to our democracy, and they will continue to do this critical work with all the challenges that the current crisis has brought forth. This postponement allows us to provide additional protection and safety resources to county election officials, poll workers, and voters without affecting the November election.”

primary

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger

The voter registration deadline for the June 9, 2020 election will be May 11, 2020. Early voting will begin on May 18, 2020. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-501, moving the primary election to June 9, 2020 will move the primary runoff to August 11, 2020.Pushing back the primary to June 9 gives Georgia election officials additional time to put in place contingency plans to allow for safe and secure voting, but pushing back the primary election any further could potentially have negative consequences on preparation for the November 3, 2020 General Election. Given existing deadlines to prepare and send ballots for the November election, particularly for military voters, moving forward on June 9 is the best way to ensure a successful election year in Georgia.

Absentee ballot applications for the upcoming primary election will continue to be accepted and processed by counties even if the application said May 19. Once county election officials properly verify the signature on the application, the voter will be sent an absentee ballot for the primary election now to be held on June 9.

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.

Copy of short-term rental ban order 04.08.20.04

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.”

Statewide Judicial Emergency extended through May 13

Featured Stories, News, State & National
Judicial Emergency

ATLANTA, Ga – Chief Justice Harold D. Melton issued an order today that extends the statewide judicial emergency until May 13, 2020. The Chief Justice first declared a judicial emergency on March 14 which was due to expire April 13.

While under a statewide judicial emergency, courts are ordered to remain open to deal with matters that are critical or “essential” to protect the “health, safety, and liberty of individuals.” As an example, essential court functions include such things as the issuance of search and arrest warrants and the granting of domestic abuse restraining orders. However, criminal trials and jury duty have been suspended statewide, and courts are urged to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing where feasible when conducting hearings or other court matters to avoid litigants, judges, and other persons from having to convene in the courthouse and risk exposure to COVID-19.

With today’s extension of the emergency, the order urges courts to avoid backlogs in nonessential matters where they can do so safely. “With regard to matters not deemed essential functions under the Statewide Judicial Emergency Order, courts and litigants are encouraged to proceed to the extent feasible and consistent with public health guidance, for example through the use of teleconferences and videoconferences, to reduce backlogs when the judicial emergency ends,” the order says.

“The threat of this virus is difficult for everyone,” Chief Justice Melton said. “Court personnel are no exception. We have to ensure that they can safely fulfill their mission.”

Chief Justice Melton said that mandating that only essential matters be addressed by the courts is a step toward protecting the safety of court personnel and the public. But Chief Justice Melton noted that with today’s order extending the judicial emergency, “I also want to encourage courts and counsel in nonessential matters to move those matters forward as much as possible and practicable to maintain the flow. We should do what we can safely do during this time to keep the courts’ backlog from growing too large.”

The order urges attorneys to remember their “obligations of professionalism.” Guidance on those obligations can be found in the Lawyer’s Creed and Aspirational Statement on Professionalism. (https://www.gabar.org/aboutthebar/lawrelatedorganizations/cjcp/lawyers-creed.cfm) In particular, attorneys are urged during this emergency to accommodate opposing counsel in either moving cases along or agreeing to continuances as appropriate.

The order states that the Chief Justice will give notice of the expected termination of the order “at least one week in advance to allow courts to plan the transition to fuller operations.”

See entire declaration here: CJ Melton_Extension_Order_signed_entered

The March 14 order states that courts “should remain open to address essential functions, and in particular courts should give priority to matters defined as those necessary to protect health, safety, and liberty of individuals.” The order lists the matters courts should prioritize, which including domestic abuse restraining orders, juvenile court delinquency detention hearings and emergency removal matters, mental health commitment hearings, and cases “where an immediate liberty or safety concern is present requiring the attention of the court as soon as the court is available.”

“Following Governor Kemp’s declaration today of a Public Health State of Emergency, I am directing the judicial branch of government to suspend all but essential court functions,” Chief Justice Melton said. “These critical matters will remain a priority in our courts.”

Criminal trials in which a jury already has been empaneled “shall continue to conclusion, unless good cause exists to suspend the trial or declare a mistrial,” the order states.

During the period of the order, which will terminate April 13 unless extended, the order suspends and grants relief from a number of judicial deadlines, such as the “time within which to issue a warrant” and the “time within which to hold a commitment hearing.”

The order states that, “To the extent court proceedings are held, they should be done in a manner to limit the risk of exposure, where possible, such as videoconferencing.”

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