On Thursday, the Governor announced he would not extend the shelter-in-place order except for the elderly and for those with underlying conditions. Here’s your Friday morning update:
• As of publication time, there have been 26,968 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia. 1,138 people have died. 164,465 tests have been conducted. 5,208 of those tested were hospitalized at the time. [GA Dept. of Public Health]
• Yesterday, Governor Brian Kemp announced he would only extend the statewide shelter-in-place order, which expired at midnight Friday, for those over 65 years old and those who have underlying conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19—they are instructed to continue sheltering in place through June 12. He also renewed the Public Health State of Emergency through June 12. The governor was among the last nationwide to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order and has been re-opening Georgia much faster than other states.
But while the order has been lifted for many Georgians, this is not an immediate return to the world before the pandemic. “I encourage all Georgians to continue to maintain social distancing, limit their travel, and use best practices,” Kemp tweeted. Gatherings of more than 10 people are still banned unless six feet of space can be kept between people at all times (and restaurants can have no more than 10 people per 500 square feet). Businesses that previously opened have to continue following the safety guidelines outlined in last week’s executive order, and bars and nightclubs, public pools, amusement parks, and live performance venues must remain closed through at least May 13.
Kemp told the AJC that it was time to focus on economic recovery. But public health experts have warned that easing up restrictions too quickly can once again leave people vulnerable to the public. One more interesting note from the AJC‘s interview: Governor Kemp has not eaten at a restaurant since dine-in service resumed or gone to get a haircut—“he let one of his daughters handle the barbering,” the paper says. [AJC]
As for the need for everyone to continue social distancing, let’s move on to the next bullet point:
• A CDC study published Thursday recommended continuing social distancing for everyone, not just the elderly and those with medical conditions. Of the 305 Atlanta patients studied, one in four did not have a condition that made them high-risk for COVID-19, and 83 percent of the patients were black, a proportion that was “higher than expected based on overall hospital admissions.” The study says, “Given the overrepresentation of black patients within this hospitalized cohort, it is important for public health officials to ensure that prevention activities prioritize communities and racial/ethnic groups most affected by COVID-19.” Another important note from the study: “Approximately one quarter of patients had no high-risk conditions, and 5% of these patients died, suggesting that all adults, regardless of underlying conditions or age, are at risk for serious COVID-19–associated illness.” So please continue social distancing, washing your hands, wearing masks, and taking this virus seriously. [CDC]
• A Georgia Tech study projected that the state reduced its COVID-19 transmission rate by 50 percent through the shutdown and shelter-in-place methods. However, as WABE reports, “If Georgians return to ‘business as usual,’ the state could see an additional 25,000 coronavirus-related fatalities by the end of June.” Continuing “strict social distancing” will see far fewer deaths—2,000-2,500, the study predicts. The study also said that there are could be five to 10 unreported COVID-19 cases for every confirmed case. That’s about 250,000 people, which is less than 2 percent of Georgians, but that means 98 percent of Georgians are still susceptible to the disease. [WABE]
• As the governor announced his plans for the expiring shelter-in-place order, a group called the Georgia Coalition 2 Save Lives held a mock funeral procession outside the Gold Dome, protesting Kemp’s decision not to extend the order for everyone. The procession, which started at Carl Williams Funeral Home in Castleberry Hill and traveled past the capitol and Grady hospital, included cars that were decorated in protest signs and hearses. [11 Alive]
• FiveThirtyEight took a look at Georgia’s re-opening decision and asked infectious disease experts to predict our coronavirus caseload in the next few weeks. “The consensus forecast of 1,044 new confirmed cases per day in two weeks suggests that Georgia will see a substantial worsening of the virus’s spread as a result of reopening,” the article says. (Last week, the 7-day average was in the 600-700 range.) “The daily number of new confirmed cases is forecast to be somewhere between 579 and 2,292, with six experts indicating that an increase to 2,000 or more new cases a day is plausible” Had the state not relaxed social distancing measures, the experts concluded, “Georgia would have seen only 487 new cases per day for the week ending on May 16, a reduction of more than 50 percent in new daily cases compared with the estimates in the open regime.” [FiveThirtyEight]
• The Peachtree Road Race has been moved from July 4 to Thanksgiving Day (November 26). Registered runners have several options with the new date—beyond running the race, they can opt to participate “virtually” on Thanksgiving (running from wherever they’d like rather than the official race course), transfer their number to someone else, move their registration to 2021, donate their race fee to Atlanta Track Club, or request a refund. The move also means the club’s traditional Thanksgiving half-marathon and 5k are cancelled. A full FAQ can be found here. [Atlanta Track Club]
• Georgia’s Department of Labor processed 266,565 claims last week, fewer than weeks prior, but 1.4 million claims have been processed since mid-March, amounting to 28 percent of workers in the state. [AJC]
• Mall update: After previously announcing they’d open today, Simon Property Group will keep its malls, which include Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza, and Mall of Georgia, closed until Monday, with the exception of Calhoun and North Georgia outlets, which open today. As for the metro area’s other malls: Perimeter, North Point, and Cumberland malls are set to re-open Tuesday. Arbor Place Mall, Southlake Mall, Forum on Peachtree Parkway, Outlet Shoppes of Atlanta, and Avenues at West Cobb, East Cobb, and Peachtree City will all re-open today. [AJC]
• The restaurant portion of Johnny’s Hideaway is now open for dine-in, even as the famous dancefloor remains closed. Johnny’s will now be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. [Eater Atlanta]
• Remember Chick-fil-A meal kits? The Atlanta-based chain tested meal kits here for several months back in 2018 before they disappeared. However, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the chain announced it will begin selling the chicken Parmesan kit nationwide beginning May 4. [11 Alive]
This story was updated to reflect Atlanta malls changing their re-opening plans.