On Wednesday, after weeks of rationing, the state announced that anyone displaying coronavirus symptoms can now be tested. Here’s your Thursday morning update:
• There are now 15,260 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia, 682 more cases than yesterday morning. 576 people have died, 52 more than yesterday morning. 3,006 have been hospitalized. 63,099 tests have been conducted. [GA Dept. of Public Health]
• Georgia has been lagging behind when it comes to coronavirus testing (45th among the 50 states), and after weeks of rationing tests, the state announced that COVID-19 tests will now be offered to anyone showing symptoms of the disease. Per the AJC, “Anyone with coronavirus symptoms can make an appointment for testing by calling a county health department or after getting a physician’s referral.” Expanded testing is crucial to understanding how severe the outbreak truly is in Georgia, but also essential as lawmakers begin discussing plans to “re-open” after the virus peaks. [AJC]
• Voters will likely be able to turn in absentee ballots to drop boxes for the June 9 primary, allowing for a contactless way to vote (with no stamps required). The boxes will be set up on government property—specific sites have yet to be announced—and counties can opt out of setting up boxes if they’re unable to prepare them in time. [AJC]
• At a council meeting in Southwest Georgia, the Dougherty County coroner put his hand on a body bag, still wrapped in plastic, and begged Georgians to take the coronavirus seriously. “Do what is right . . . I don’t want to use this body bag. I want it to stay in the plastic,” he said. “I love you, and that’s why I’m trying to save lives. That’s the only reason I’m up here.” Dougherty County is one of the hardest hit spots in the country, with 84 dead and more than 1,300 cases. [WSB-TV]
• Some farmers are concerned about the coronavirus’s impact on this year’s Vidalia onion crop, which was already impacted by a rainy winter. Seasonal workers from Mexico arrived later than usual, and the virus has caused supply chain issues. However, with more people cooking at home, the head of the Vidalia Onion Growers Council was optimistic there would be plenty of demand for the local veggie. [AJC]
• Taqueria del Sol has temporarily closed its locations in anticipation of coronavirus hitting its peak in Atlanta. “We want to ensure the health and safety of our staff and guests alike,” the owners said in a Facebook post. [Eater Atlanta]
• Restaurant workers are under a lot of stress in the pandemic. Bon Ton bartender Keyatta Mincey-Parker opened a community garden in East Atlanta that is open to all hospitality professionals and offers affordable plots at just $25 per growing season. “These times are so uncomfortable and uncertain, so I have just leaned into being in the garden and building something to come back to,” she says. “It keeps me encouraged. And this could be the last line of defense [for people in the industry] in fighting things like depression, fatigue, and even hunger.” Read our full story here.
• Do you remember your “last good day” before the pandemic? For Atlanta journalist Courtney Kueppers, it was the day before her 26th birthday. In this essay, she takes a look back at the last weekend before the city shut down.