ATLANTA (WSAV) – Georgia officials reported the state’s first COVID-19 death early Thursday; by day’s end, the number of cases statewide reached 42.
Governor Brian Kemp said Thursday that the individual who died was a 67-year-old man who was hospitalized at WellStar Kennestone in Marietta. He tested positive for the new coronavirus on March 7 and had underlying medical conditions.
“Marty, the girls, and I are praying for the family and loved ones of this individual during this incredibly difficult time,” said Kemp. “I know the medical professionals on-site did everything that they could, and I greatly appreciate their efforts. As our state continues to address this pandemic, I urge Georgians to remain calm and support their neighbors and communities. We are in this fight together.”
Kemp is now calling on local governments, school systems and citizens to consider making individual changes to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He said now is a crucial time for families, friends and neighbors to protect those who are elderly and at a higher risk of getting sick. It’s a conversation Kemp said he had with his own mother about what she needs in the coming days to stay safe and healthy.
He’s also encouraging county and local governments to consider what closures might be appropriate.
“Regardless of whether you decide to stay open or decide to close, we will support that decision,” Kemp said.
The governor recommended schools and other educational centers to shut down temporarily, though he said it’s not a mandate.
“If you feel that it is prudent, you should consider closing daycares, schools or school districts as early as tomorrow through the next two weeks,” Kemp said.
Until April 10, the Departments of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Corrections, Juvenile Justice, and Veterans Services facilities will suspend visitation “except for next of kin in end-of-life situations.”
“This decision wasn’t made lightly,” said Kemp. “These populations are in close contact, some with underlying health conditions that – if exposed to COVID-19 – could result in serious medical problems or cause widespread infection to those in close proximity.”
The governor said he’s not shutting down the government but nonessential travel will be suspended and telework policies will be implemented for most state employees.
“This is the right thing to do,” said Kemp. “This arrangement will prevent substantial disruption of service to our constituents and mitigate risk.”
Meanwhile, state leaders will put the 2020 session on hold after Friday until further notice. Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Rolston said they are concerned about public safety.
It’s unclear when they will return, and whether they will finish the scheduled 40-day session, passing a balanced budget.
The state did approve $100 million in reserve funds to combat the coronavirus.