Kemp bans many gatherings, orders shelter in place for ‘medically fragile’

COVID-19, Restaurant Industry News,

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution

Gov. Brian Kemp announced a series of measures Monday to try to curb the spread of coronavirus, instituting a ban on many gatherings of more than 10 people and ordering a shelter in place for “medically fragile” residents for two weeks. 

Facing increasing pressure to impose stiffer restrictions, Kemp also ordered the shutdown of bars and nightclubs across the state and gave the Department of Public Health authority to close businesses or nonprofits – including churches – that don’t comply with the rules.

His order bans all gatherings of more than 10 people unless they can assure spacing of “at least six feet between people at all times.” Grocery stores and other businesses that can maintain social distancing will remain open. 

“We are all part of the solution. If your friends, neighbors or local organizations are not complying, call them out. Or report them to us,” said Kemp. “If any establishment isn’t following these directives, I’d ask you to take your business somewhere else.”

The shelter in place applies to people living in long-term care facilities, those exposed to the virus or residents with compromised immune systems from Tuesday to April 6. He also postponed the deadline to file Georgia taxes to July 15. 

“This fight is far from over, but we are in this fight together,” said Kemp. “Look out for your fellow Georgians and pray for their continued safety, as well as the safety of our first responders, healthcare workers, the elderly and the medically fragile.”

For days, the Republican has been pilloried for his refusal to use emergency powers to impose restrictions, which has led to a patchwork of local regulations that public health experts warn could undermine Georgia’s effort to contain the disease. 

The governor has previously said he fears any “overreach” would backfire if he moved too quickly. The restrictions he announced Monday don’t go as far as some, including lawmakers and public health experts, who sought a broader shutdown. 

His reluctance stands in contrast to dozens of other governors, as well as a growing number of Georgia municipal and county leaders, who have imposed steep restrictions meant to stem the spread of the disease.

At least 28 other states have enacted statewide limits on gatherings, and 37 states have restricted restaurants and other businesses, according to the National Governors Association. Those restrictions span most Southern states. 

And local officials around the state prepared more decisive steps. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms readied a shelter in place order she said she’s likely to sign later Monday, and DeKalb County imposed a “voluntary curfew.”

The calls for Kemp to force closures and restrict events have grown more insistent as the number of coronavirus cases rises. The disease has infected at least 772 Georgians, including four state senators, and is linked to 25 deaths. 

"This is a non-partisan issue - this virus sees no color or political affiliations, it doesn’t care about status or economic positioning,” top House Democratic leaders wrote Kemp on Monday, urging him to be more “proactive in the fight against this ‘invisible enemy.’”

They’re joined by a growing number of Republicans. House Speaker David Ralston became one of the state’s first GOP leaders to advocate for a shelter-in-place order Monday as the state rapidly reaches what he called a “tipping point.”

“I would support Governor Kemp if he chooses to issue an order requiring non-essential workers to remain home for another 10 days, two weeks, to see if we can flatten this curve a little bit,” he told a local media outlet, Fetch Your News

Ralston added: “If we over-react, thank God we overreact.”