Kemp orders new restrictions; Bartow now with 61 COVID-19 cases

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Georgia's governor said Monday that he was ordering all bars and nightclubs around the state to close because of the coronavirus and giving state officials the authority to shut down businesses that don't comply.

The order will take effect at noon on Tuesday and last for just under two weeks, Gov. Brian Kemp said at a news conference. He said the state would also ban gatherings of 10 or more people unless people could maintain 6 feet of distance.

“These measures are intended to ensure the health and safety of Georgians across our state," he said. “And I would ask for everyone’s cooperation over the next two weeks.”

The measures are not as extreme of orders issued in other states and what some lawmakers and health experts had sought. Indiana, Michigan and West Virginia joined states including California, Illinois and New York in asking or ordering their residents to stay home and keep businesses closed — directives that now cover more than one-third of the U.S. population.

Kemp's announcement on Monday did not mention restaurants. The governor said he would order people at increased risk from the virus to shelter in place. That population includes people in long-term care facilities, those with chronic lung disease and those undergoing cancer treatment, he said.

The restrictions in Georgia came as the number of cases of the virus in the state rose to 800 as of 7 p.m. Monday. The death toll increased to 26. Bartow County entered the weekend with the second-most confirmed cases in the state behind only Fulton County, but now has the fifth-most cases with 61, behind Fulton (152), Cobb (79), Dekalb (74) and Dougherty (69).

Also on Monday, Cartersville Medical Center reported six patients positive for COVID-19 who remain as inpatients. There are 40 patients in-house who are pending test results.
Kemp also joined several other governors in sending a letter to leaders in Congress asking that they approve additional funding to states in the form of block grants to fight the virus.

Kemp had previously ordered schools to close but refrained from taking stronger steps, leaving those decisions to local governments instead. Individual counties in Georgia have placed restrictions on businesses and gatherings.

At least four members of the Georgia state Senate have now tested positive after Republican Sen. Brandon Beach of Alpharetta became the first to do so last week. Republican Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick of Marietta, Republican Sen. Bruce Thompson of White and Democratic Sen. Nikema Williams of Atlanta have announced positive diagnoses. Williams is also the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party.

Thompson said he was released from Northside Cherokee hospital on Sunday after a period in the intensive care unit. “While I am feeling much better, I plan to remain at home in self-quarantine for the immediate future,” Thompson wrote on Facebook.