A look at major coronavirus developments in Georgia over past week

Gov. Brian Kemp speaks as other officials standing behind during a press conference to provide an update on the state’s efforts regarding COVID-19, after reporting the first death in Georgia related to coronavirus, at the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, March 11, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The growing coronavirus outbreak has led to school closures, the cancellation of major sporting events, concerts, festivals and much more.

Here’s a look at stunning developments related to the coronavirus this past week.

Kemp declares a public health emergency

Gov. Brian Kemp declared an unprecedented public health emergency Saturday and said he would use the broad powers granted under the law to deploy "all available resources" to help contain the spread of coronavirus.

The declaration would give Kemp new abilities to suspend laws and regulations, take “direct operational control” of civil forces and mandate evacuations to cope with an outbreak that’s sickened at least 66 in Georgia and killed one.

The powers also would give health authorities the ability to isolate or quarantine Georgians exposed to the disease, order vaccinations or other treatments, restrict travel into or within the state and limit or cancel public gatherings.

ExploreRead more about calling for a public health emergency
The assembly department at the Springfield Topre plant. Representatives of the company say they are taking additional preventive measures amid statewide coronavirus concerns. BILL LACKEY/STAFF

Numbers rise and first patient in Georgia dies from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus

The number of cases of the coronavirus in Georgia has climbed to at least 66, the Department of Public Health said. Cases have been reported in counties including Cobb, Fulton, Cherokee, Coweta, DeKalb, Fayette, and Gordon counties.

On Thursday, a patient at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital was Georgia's first death to the virus. The 67-year-old man was diagnosed with the coronavirus the previous weekend.

Students wait outside at Woodland Middle School in East Point on Monday. The Fulton County School system has decided to close schools on Tuesday after a teacher tested positive with the coronavirus. The teacher was at Woodland Middle school on Friday. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Schools, colleges close

Citing the continued spread of the coronavirus, the big metro Atlanta school districts announced this past week they will send students home and shift to online learning for at least the next week.

Most districts, including DeKalb, Cobb and Fulton counties, said buildings will remain closed until further notice.

Emory, Brenau and Atlanta University announced that students will take classes online.

After stating early Thursday that its campuses would remain open, the University System of Georgia said later that the schools will switch to online learning.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

An N95 respirator face mask is part of the protective kit that nurses and doctors will use if a patient shows signs of coronavirus at the American Family Care located inside the Piedmont West Outpatient Center in Atlanta. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)

Delta to cut flights 40%, park 300 planes

Delta Air Lines is cutting flights 40% and parking 300 planes in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The reduction of flights is the largest cut in flights in Delta’s history, including 2001, according to a memo from Delta CEO Ed Bastian.

Atlanta-based Delta said it will eliminate flights to continental Europe for 30 days amid stringent European travel restrictions. It will keep flying to London.

With the moves, the COVID-19 crisis is reshaping the most profitable U.S. airline into a significantly smaller company for the near future.

NCAA Final Four canceled, other major sporting events suspended

The NCAA had stated earlier in the week that the men's NCAA Tournament would take place in an empty Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, then they then announced Thursday that all games were canceled. Major League Baseball suspended spring training and postponed the new season, Major League Soccer canceled games for at least a month, and the NBA suspended play indefinitely.

The loss of the NCAA Tournament is a big blow to the city of Atlanta, which had been expecting an economic infusion from thousands of March Madness visitors. It also scuttled other cultural events that would have accompanied the games. An example: Taylor Swift planned to play a free concert in Centennial Olympic Park, but that has been canceled.

Hawks owner Tony Ressler announced he would implement a plan to make sure employees of State Farm Arena have some income, according to Sports Illustrated.

Gov. Biran Kemp announced three new cases of the coronavirus in Georgia on Saturday.

Kemp asks for lawmakers to add $100 million in emergency funding

Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday asked lawmakers to add $100 million in emergency funding to the midyear budget, to deal with the coronavirus.

His plan calls for dipping into state reserves, something that hasn’t happened since the Great Recession.

Kemp said the money would go to assist response efforts of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Public Health. Kemp characterized the request as coming from an “abundance of caution,” to ensure that the state has medical supplies and personnel in place to combat the cases of COVID-19.

Georgia’s House and Senate leaders agreed to the request and added $5 million to the budget to help rural hospitals with costs associated with the virus. The legislature is set to vote on the measures today.

Georgia also will get assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is set to award the state $14.8 million to bolster the COVID-19 response. It’s part of $560 million the federal agency is spending to support state and local jurisdictions.

March 12, 2020 Marietta: A pair of women wearing masks are seen behind a blackened fence where quarantined Grand Princess cruise ship passengers are isolated in a housing area at Dobbins Air Reserve Base on Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Marietta. “Prior to arriving here, the passengers were medically screened by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” said Col. Craig McPike, Dobbins installation commander. “The passengers who were asymptomatic were transferred here and other federal military installations for COVID-19 testing and quarantine.” Should any individuals be identified as ill during their quarantine period, the Department of Health & Human Services, the lead federal agency, has procedures in place to transport them to a local civilian hospital. “CDC is fully responsible for all aspects of the quarantine operation, and Dobbins personnel will have no contact with these passengers. By providing this support, Dobbins ARB is helping to protect the health of Americans by preventing the spread of the virus.” Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Nearly 500 passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship flown to Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta

Nearly 500 passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship — which was hit with the coronavirus in the Pacific — were flown to Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta

The state government is also building a “quarantine space” that will house residents sickened by the disease and who have nowhere to isolate themselves. The facility at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Monroe County is expected to accommodate 20 temporary housing units.

The state previously prepared a section of Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County for isolating and monitoring patients who were exposed to COVID-19.

Staff writers Bo Emerson, Jeremy Redmon, Tamar Hallerman, Tim Tucker, Greg Bluestein, Marlon Walker, Ben Brasch, Alexis Stevens and Kelly Yamanouchi contributed to this report.

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