Georgia governor to decide whether to extend shelter in place

Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to soon decide whether to extend a shelter in place order that’s set to expire Thursday night or ease the mandate as he continues to rollback coronavirus restrictions.

The governor has already urged the “medically fragile” and elderly to stay home until at least May 13, but he said he’s weighing more state and federal data before he decides whether to extend the broader stay-at-home order to all Georgians.

“We’re going to be making some decisions, most likely in the next couple of days, of what the next week or two weeks or a month looks like based on that data,” he said on Monday. “I just haven’t made those decisions yet.”

Kemp has suggested he could lift at least some of the requirements of the order, which took effect on April 3 and was extended days later through the end of the month.

The governor last week allowed close-contact businesses such as barbershops and nail salons to reopen so long as they abide by safety guidelines, and restaurants were allowed to resume dine-in service on Monday.

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That triggered fierce criticism from Democratic leaders, local mayors, public health experts and President Donald Trump over concerns that rolling back economic restrictions could risk a greater outbreak of the pandemic.

Though the order encouraged Georgians to stay home, it included a range of exceptions that let residents leave for various reasons, including exercise and shopping or working at businesses that comply with other restrictions.

Violators of the order could face misdemeanor charges, but state law enforcement officers have issued only a handful of tickets and instead relied on hundreds of warnings to offenders.

The order has widespread support from Georgians. A University of Georgia poll released Tuesday showed that three-quarters of registered voters back the initiative, including broad majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Kemp has stressed that no matter his decision, restrictions on nursing homes will remain in place through mid-May. Residents of those facilities have suffered disproportionately from a virus that preys on the elderly and people with chronic illnesses.

“We’ve got to continue to hunker down and watch out for and support that industry,” he said. “That’s definitely staying put. What the rest of it looks like, we’ll have a better idea in a day or two.”

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