‘Evil virus’ claims devoted native Atlanta couple within days of each other

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The global pandemic that Gov. Brian Kemp has called “the evil virus” staked another claim to cruelty last week, when an Atlanta couple married for 63 years died within days of each other.

Eddie and Blanche Johnson were residents of Arbor Terrace at Cascade in southwest Atlanta. Eddie Johnson died Sunday, April 5, followed by his wife on Wednesday, April 8.

According to their obituary, both died due to complications from the coronavirus. The couple had four children and five grandchildren.


Public health experts say elderly people with underlying health conditions — the profile of many senior-home residents — are the most vulnerable to the virus.

Besides extending his shelter-in-place order through April 30, Kemp has also imposed stricter rules on senior care homes as officials acknowledged for the first time last week the virus already has killed more than 80 residents of those facilities.

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The state Department of Public Health declined last week to identify the senior care facilities where residents have died. On April 7, the operator of an Athens nursing home acknowledged 10 deaths among residents who had tested positive for the virus. As many as nine residents of a nursing home in southwest Georgia’s Mitchell County also have died.

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The public health agency said last week outbreaks had been identified at 60 senior care facilities. But it didn’t say how many residents had been diagnosed with the virus at each facility, and there were only seven known deaths at the time.

“We have been talking about nursing homes for weeks,” Kemp said. “We know it’s a vulnerable population.”

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Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state public health commissioner, who appeared with Kemp, said epidemiologists investigating the massive coronavirus outbreak in the Albany area in southwest Georgia had identified a lack of consistent infection control measures in nursing homes.

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Kemp deployed 1,000 Georgia National Guard troops, on top of 2,000 he had already activated, to help disinfect senior care facilities statewide. At the same time, he issued an executive order requiring those facilities — including nursing homes, residential hospices and assisted living and personal care homes, among others — to take more aggressive steps to curb the virus’ spread.

»MORE: Scant information on virus outbreak leaves Georgia on edge

He barred visitors and nonessential workers from entering nursing homes, told the facilities to cancel group activities and meals, and ordered that any nursing home worker who tests positive for the virus must be quarantined.

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Eddie Johnson was a graduate of Booker T. Washington High School, Morris Brown College and Clark Atlanta University. He was a retired federal government and Georgia Department of Corrections employee.

Blanche Johnson also graduated from Booker T. Washington, and then attended Alabama State University and Clark Atlanta. She was a retired educator with the Atlanta Public School System.

They were longtime residents of Atlanta’s Ben Hill community.