Gov. Kemp extends coronavirus emergency order with minor changes

Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday extended existing coronavirus restrictions through Dec. 9, leaving his emergency orders largely unchanged as cases of COVID-19 have begun to increase in recent weeks.

The 52-page order extends guidelines for restaurants, bars and other businesses to remain open, with certain limitations. Long-standing rules for long-term care facilities also remain in place.

Kemp extended the current ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, though some public health experts have urged the governor for tighter rules to help curb a new rise in cases. Kemp’s order had been set to expire Nov. 9.

Cases of COVID-19 remain well below the summer surge, but are rising, and some public health observers warn the feared autumn wave of the virus currently battering other parts of the country could be arriving in Georgia.

Since Oct. 2, the seven-day rolling average in cases has increased more than 40%, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of state data shows.

The number of people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 also has increased by more than 10% over the past two weeks following weeks of declines.

Asked earlier this week if Kemp planned to institute any changes to his emergency orders, Kemp spokesman Cody Hall said the governor continues to closely monitor data with the guidance of the state’s public health commissioner, Dr. Kathleen Toomey.

Kemp and health officials have urged Georgians to follow the state’s “Four Things for Fall” campaign, which includes wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, washing hands and following his statewide guidelines.

Toomey has said in recent weeks Georgians should also get a flu shot.

Kemp’s office said the minor changes in the order clarify sections that relate to telehealth counseling visits and to local governments and certain public auctions.

The order now makes clear that the a state oversight board is authorized to issue temporary clearance for therapists, social workers and marriage and family counselors licensed in other states to provide telehealth services to existing patients who have recently moved to Georgia as a result of the virus. The counselors must be in good standing in their home states.

The governor’s order added language to clarify that nothing in its contents relieves local governments from conducting tax lien auctions and other public auctions.