Although the terminal was quiet, the security checkpoint waiting time showed 30 to 45 minutes since both north and south checkpoints were closed at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Saturday, March 21, 2020. Health guidelines say that staying at least 6 feet away from other people lessens your chances of catching COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Coronavirus hits young girl, police officer, prison inmates

The new coronavirus recorded more firsts in Georgia this weekend: the first confirmed case of an Atlanta police officer, the first state prison inmates and one of the first known cases in an adolescent, a girl who was fighting for her life Saturday at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite.

The case involving 12-year-old Emma, relayed by a relative, is particularly concerning as COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, so far has been less likely to seriously strike the youngest members of the population. Just 1% of COVID-19 patients in Georgia are in the 0-17 age group, according to the state’s latest figures, though ages aren’t known for 26 percent of reported cases.

Justin Anthony, a restaurateur whose restaurants include 10 Degrees South and Yebo Ski Haus, said his cousin Emma tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday night.

Emma suffered from a fever that would not break for several days and visited the emergency room multiple times before being admitted to Scottish Rite on March 15 with what was believed to be pneumonia. But Anthony said Emma’s condition worsened and she was placed on a ventilator.

Anthony said his family doesn’t know how Emma contracted the virus. Her mother is at the hospital with the child and Emma’s 13-year-old brother is in self-isolation and home alone. Relatives are bringing the boy food every day, but Anthony said they are unable to have physical contact with the boy.

Anthony said the family discussed Emma’s case because they want people to know the risk also falls on children.

“Kids can get it and I know one who’s fighting for her life,” he said.

» COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia

Children’s Healthcare confirmed the hospital has one COVID-19 patient in isolation but declined to provide any details citing federal privacy laws. The AJC is not identifying the child’s last name and limiting identifying details to protect the family’s privacy.

Anthony told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Saturday afternoon that doctors informed the family Emma is stable and that they were lowering the concentration of oxygen she was receiving to determine if her lungs could handle it.

Economic fallout

The fallout of COVID-19 continues to be felt across Georgia and the nation. Restaurants, retailers and hotels closed their doors and states across country prepared for the continued onslaught of new unemployment claims.

On Saturday, CEOs of major airlines, including Atlanta-based Delta, urged Washington to approve a mammoth multibillion-dollar bailout of the industry.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian and the chief executives nine major carriers and the industry’s lobbying group want a federal airline bailout to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The CEOs promised not to furlough employees through August if they get $29 billion in payroll grants.

Reports this week indicate that the White House and Senate Republicans are offering up to $50 billion in loans to airlines but not grants.

» PHOTOS: Atlantans out and about amid restrictions

The U.S. Senate convened Saturday to work on a coronavirus stimulus package. Some oppose the taxpayer-funded bailouts and have urged Congress to enact consumer protections as conditions for the aid.

“Time is running out,” the airline CEOs’ letter says. “The worker payroll protection grants are critical to saving the jobs of our employees.”

The airline executives are also pushing for at least $29 billion in loans or loan guarantees, and are pledging that if they get them, they will put limits on executive compensation and eliminate stock buybacks and dividends for the life of the loans.

Delta has already announced plans to slash 70 % of its flights and is parking at least half its fleet and more than 13,000 Delta employees have taken voluntary unpaid leave.

Virus spreads

The state reported 555 confirmed cases are now in Georgia, though the death toll climbed Saturday night to 20, up from 14 the day before.

Cases have now been reported in more than one third of Georgia’s 159 counties. Fulton (99), Bartow (56), Cobb (50), Dougherty (47) and DeKalb (41) reported the most cases.

Phoebe Putney Health System in the southwest Georgia city of Albany, which has been hit hard by the outbreak, reported an additional coronavirus-related death bringing the tally at its hospital system to five.

Phoebe Putney, which operates four hospitals in the Albany area, has 83 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 700 patients either in its hospitals or in-home isolation who are awaiting test results, according to a news release.

An Atlanta police spokesman confirmed its first known COVID-19 case on Saturday. The officer, who was not named, was posted at the department’s headquarters. Spokesman Carlos Campus said the department’s ability to respond to emergencies has not been affected. Police did not say whether the officer exhibited any symptoms at work, or if the officer came in contact with residents in their day-to-day duties.

A civilian at Robins Air Force Base in Middle Georgia also tested positive, officials at the base said.

» WATCH: Coronavirus outbreak renders Atlanta city streets quiet

State officials said late Friday that three Georgia inmates are now confirmed to have COVID-19. The incarcerated men are from Lee State Prison, a 762-unit medium-level detention center in southwest Georgia’s Lee County, according to the Georgia Department of Corrections. All three men have been hospitalized since earlier this week.

COVID-19 also has spread among officials at Georgia’s state Capitol. A second state senator disclosed she has tested positive for the virus and other legislators and staffers reported feeling symptoms after the state’s entire legislative branch was urged to self-quarantine.

State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick disclosed her diagnosis late Friday and that she had been in self-quarantine since she felt sick a week ago. An orthopedic surgeon, Kirkpatrick is a member of Gov. Brian Kemp’s coronavirus task force.

State Sen. Bruce Thompson, who has been hospitalized for respiratory issues, was released Saturday but will remain in isolation. He said results of a coronavirus test are pending.

State Sen. Nikema Williams, who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia, and Liz Flowers, the director of the Senate Democratic Caucus, also have reported feeling symptoms.

New restrictions

On Saturday, Tucker became the second Georgia city to enact a curfew, joining South Fulton.

Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis signed an executive order limiting public and private gatherings to fewer than 10 people and closing some businesses, including bars, nightclubs, salons, entertainment venues and restaurants with dine-in-only service, according to the Augusta Chronicle.

Government orders to close businesses have crippled many small operators, including restaurant company owners like Anthony.

On top of his cousin’s coronavirus diagnosis, Anthony said he had to shut down his restaurants and lay off more than 100 workers. But he said the risk to public health was too great for governments to allow restaurants to remain open.

Anthony said he is working on a plan to use the kitchens in his restaurants to cook donated meals to displaced hospitality workers and potentially health care workers.

“People on the front lines need to be fed,” he said.

Staff writers Shaddi Abusaid, Greg Bluestein, Max Blau, Joshua Sharpe and Kelcie Willis contributed to this report.

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