On Thursday, the governor held a virtual town hall, schools closed for even longer, and puppies took over the aquarium. Here’s your Friday morning update:
• There are now 1,643 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia (18.5% increase from yesterday). 56 people have died (19.1% increase from yesterday). 509 have been hospitalized (5.6% increase from yesterday). 8,948 people have been tested (44.8% increase from yesterday). [GA Dept. of Public Health]
• The AJC ran the data—COVID-19 cases are up 472% in a week, and the state ranks 10th in confirmed cases. We are 6th for deaths. The article notes that the state’s public health crisis prior to the pandemic is putting us in an even worse place now compared to many other states. [AJC]
• Governor Brian Kemp will keep K-12 schools closed statewide through April 24. [Office of the Governor]
• Last night, the governor hosted a virtual town hall that was broadcast live by every single local television station and even by us via GPB’s livestream. The interviews with Kemp, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Kathleen Toomey, GEMA Director Homer Bryson, and Insurance Commissioner John King were moderated by WSBTV’s Jovita Moore and news anchors from Fox 5, Univision, 11Alive, and CBS 46, with the latter two broadcasting from inside their homes. (Univision’s Gianncarlo Cifuentes also interviewed King in English and Spanish.) You can watch the video here. Here are some takeaways:
• Kemp was firm on his reasoning to not issue a shelter in place order for the entire state, despite outcry from medical and government leaders. “I’m having to govern the whole state; it’s much different than what Mayor Bottoms and other local elected officials have done,” Kemp said. “I’m supportive of the actions they’re taking. We still have over 50 counties that don’t have a confirmed case yet, so [we’re] trying to balance all those things, continuing to go on the data we have, and supporting local elected officials.”
Toomey, a member of Kemp’s coronavirus task force, agreed that while it was best for Atlanta to shelter in place, she wasn’t sure it was the best choice for towns with limited virus spread.
Bottoms said, “If it were my call, I would have a stay at home order for the entire country but obviously that is not my call, and I certainly understand and respect the governor’s position that he is balancing diverse constituencies across the state and they’re needs may be a bit different than ours.”
• Kemp said that one of the reasons for Georgia’s testing delays was that it takes 4-5 days to get results back from the type of tests that are currently conducted by private companies.
• Toomey said the state’s first shipment of additional ventilators would be arriving “to help harder-hit areas like Rome and Albany.” She noted the state is also looking at teaching universities and technical schools for additional ventilators.
• Bottoms, also a member of the coronavirus task force, discussed her initiatives to protect the homeless, stating that an “angel donor” in Atlanta had donated a hotel to provide isolation areas for homeless in need.
• Bottoms also said that Grady hospital was at 90 percent ICU capacity on Wednesday but reminded viewers that Grady’s capacity was already compromised due to flood damage. She cited Emory’s Dr. Carlos del Rio in saying that at current rates, the state would hit ICU capacity by May 3. “Certainly it is our hope that with these proactive measures in place that we can stop and slow down the spread of this virus,” she said.
• Kemp stressed the importance of those who think they may be sick calling either the health department, the state’s coronavirus hotline, or their own doctors before arriving at a healthcare office to avoid spreading the disease.
• The situation also continues to grow worse for Delta Air Lines, where 21,000 employees have taken voluntary unpaid leave. Delta is also doing pay cuts for ground employees and headquarters employees. The airline is losing $50 million per day with 70 percent of regular flights canceled. Passenger traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson for all airlines is down 85 percent. [AJC]
• As the country’s national unemployment figures were released at an all-time high, the Georgia Department of Labor announced that 12,140 claims were filed from March 15-21, up nearly 6,700 claims from the week prior. The department reported 110,000 users on its website on Wednesday and is expecting a greater surge of claims in the coming weeks, with numbers already higher than that during the 2008 recession. The department installed two rule changes: unemployment benefits can now be claimed for 26 weeks, and those receiving unemployment can now make up to $300 in a week and still earn full unemployment benefits. [GA Dept. of Labor]
• The first Georgia House member, Matthew Gambill (R-Cartersville), has tested positive for COVID-19. Five state senators previously tested positive. [AJC]
• After a week of offering take-out, Junior’s Pizza in Summerhill closed temporarily due to alleged rude customers. Co-owner Jen Aton told Atlanta in a phone interview that one customer who was picking up a pizza tried to hand a cash tip to employees rather than to place it in the the tip jar. He then coughed on the bill and again attempted to hand it to the employees, joking that it was “corona-free.” Aton also said some customers disregarded the restaurants rules, such as attempting to dine in the closed-off seating area and patio and not entering the restaurant one at a time. It just became too stressful for her and husband and co-owner Alex Aton. Jen Aton says they plan to keep supporting their employees for as long as they can and are trying to determine their next steps. Here’s what the restaurant posted on Instagram.
• Chef Ford Fry has temporarily closed all of his restaurants, including Little Rey, Superica, and Beetlecat. [AJC]
• Missing the gym? We’ve rounded up the local studios who are offering online workouts, both free and for a membership fee. Read the full list here.
• Believe it or not, this is what 6:15 p.m. on the Connector looks like right now. [Twitter]
It's the new normal in these uncertain times. 6:15pm on a Thursday afternoon and this is the Downtown Connector (75-85) near 17th St. Not a brake light in sight. #ATLtraffic https://t.co/rARGSB6ttv pic.twitter.com/iM8QTZGJvy
— WSB Radio (@wsbradio) March 26, 2020
• Atlanta Humane took two puppies to the shuttered Georgia Aquarium to say hello to the whale sharks and fish, and the results are adorable. [YouTube]