Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Georgia rise past 1,000

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The number of confirmed infections from the new coronavirus pushed past 1,000 in Georgia on Tuesday, with deaths rising to 32.

The number of positive results surged to 1,097 as of Tuesday at 7 p.m., or 30% over Monday evening's numbers, reaching more than half of Georgia's 159 counties for the first time, according to the Department of Public Health.

In the 24 hours since Monday’s last report, cases in Bartow increased from 61 to 76 by 7 p.m. Tuesday.

At Cartersville Medical Center, there are currently five patients positive for COVID-19 who remain as inpatients. There are currently 36 patients in house who are pending test results.

"At the current time, health officials from Cartersville Medical Center are seeing increases in confirmed COVID19 cases, however, are able to manage those as well as other healthcare needs within the community appropriately,” a press release from the Bartow County Emergency management Division said Tuesday.

— The Georgia Municipal Association advised all of the state's 538 cities to order curfews from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. and close gyms, movie theaters and other businesses.

The association weighed in as a new order by the Governor Brian Kemp took effect that shuts down bars and nightclubs, prohibits public gatherings of more than 10 people and orders people most at risk of illness or previously exposed to shelter at home.

Kemp favors letting local governments decide on stricter limitations. His statewide actions fall short of those in many other states, despite pressure from some lawmakers and health experts for tougher measures.

Some local governments including Atlanta, Albany, and Athens-Clarke County have already adopted restrictions beyond Kemp's orders. Savannah Mayor Van Johnson on Tuesday imposed stay-at-home restrictions beginning Wednesday.

Democrats in the state House signed a letter Monday to Kemp urging stronger restrictions, and some Republicans feel similarly.

“You hate to contemplate a shutdown because you know it's going to cause economic pain, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston of Blue Ridge told news outlet Fetch Your News on Monday. “But I would prefer that over hearing of them becoming very ill or dying.”

Other leaders support the go-slow approach in hopes of limiting economic damage, in line with President Donald Trump.

— Every Georgia voter will receive an absentee ballot request form in the mail ahead of the May 19 primaries, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Tuesday.

The unprecedented step will reinforce the social distancing public health officials are recommending in the midst of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

“Times of turbulence and upheaval like the one we Georgians face require decisive action if the liberties we hold so dear are to be preserved,” Raffensperger said. “Georgia has faced challenges before and overcome them, and we can do so again.”

Raffensperger already has postponed Georgia’s presidential primary, which was to have been held Tuesday, until May 19, when it will take place in conjunction with primaries for congressional, legislative and county offices.

Only 5% of Georgia voters cast their ballots by mail during the November elections in 2018 and 2016. But with COVID-19 raging, a much higher percentage of voters likely will vote absentee this spring.

— The Georgia Department of Labor has said unemployment filings are much higher than normal, although numbers won't be released until Thursday. But more than a dozen businesses have filed notices with the state in the last week that they're laying off a total of more than 1,200 employees.

— U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it had moved 14 former passengers of the Grand Princess who have tested positive to a former hotel in Marietta that's now a federal quarantine facility. There are 86 other passengers remaining at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, spokeswoman Cheri Rice said by email, with most expected to go home this week.

— On Tuesday, the City of Cartersville announced a second addendum to Friday’s Declaration of Emergency. The addendum pertains to alcohol sales with carry-out food orders. According to the amendment, all restaurants that have a license to sell alcoholic beverages may sell beer, wine and cider in unopened, sealed containers with in-person take-out orders only. "Alcohol shall not be served with delivery orders."

Also in the addendum, “Manufacturers of distilled spirits and malt beverages with a license to sell such beverages may continue to sell their products through take-out only. … The directive is intended to suspend city enforcement of city ordinances prohibiting certain alcoholic beverages being sold with carry-out food purchases."

— The state Department of Public Health on Tuesday called for volunteers with and without medical training. Medically-trained volunteers may be used to answer COVID-19 questions by phone or help at testing sites. Nonmedical volunteers may be used for administrative or other help. Kemp also asked businesses that make or distribute health care supplies such as masks and gowns to send information to state government.

— The Associated Press and Capitol Beat News Service contributed to this report.