Gov. Brian Kemp has extended some coronavirus restrictions and eased others, setting the stage for summer camps to reopen and select state employees to return to offices.
The state continues to ramp up testing and its hiring of a team of workers to track coronavirus cases around Georgia.
Meanwhile, Georgia teenagers seeking driver’s licenses must take road tests after all, despite the pandemic.
Here’s a look at major developments over the past week related to the coronavirus.
Limits on bars, clubs extended; rules on camps, child care eased.
Kemp ordered bars, nightclubs and live performance venues to remain shuttered through the end of May, which he said will “enhance health outcomes” and give owners more time to prepare to reopen.
He also renewed dozens of regulations that were set to expire, such as social distancing requirements at other businesses and limits on large gatherings.
At the same time, Kemp continued an aggressive approach in rolling back other pandemic restrictions. Some state agencies will soon resume in-person operations.
Kemp relaxed capacity limits on restaurants for dine-in service, increasing the maximum table size from six patrons to 10.
He doubled the number of children allowed in a single classroom at child care facilities from 10 to 20. And he signed an executive order that allows summer camps to resume if they follow 32 regulations, though overnight camps aren’t yet permitted to open.
Too early to assess consequences of reopening state
More than two weeks after Kemp allowed a range of businesses to restart operations, the rate of new cases has slowed while the number of hospitalized patients is on the decline, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.
And, while public health experts say it’s still too early to assess the consequences of Kemp’s initiative, the governor’s critics say he’s valuing economic vitality over public safety.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms described it as a “massive health experiment” that puts lives at stake.
Ramping up testing and new tools to respond to COVID-19
Kemp said Georgia received on Tuesday its first shipment of remdesivir, an antiviral drug that’s shown promise in some tests.
The state Department of Public Health is developing guidelines to determine how it will be distributed.
Amid a ramp-up in testing, state officials have hired new coordinators to expand a team of contact tracers — staffers who track residents with coronavirus and those they’ve come in contact with. State officials want to increase the number from 250 to 1,000 within weeks.
State officials urged Georgians who have tested positive or potentially been exposed to the virus to cooperate with the DPH’s contact tracing program.
Job cuts continue across state
Georgia’s Department of Labor processed nearly a quarter of a million unemployment claims the week ending May 9 as the flood of virus-triggered job cuts continued.
The latest figures bring the total number of claims handled since the start of March to 1,850,767. That’s 37% of Georgia’s pre-virus workforce, a much higher share than the national average of about 22%.
State officials cautioned that some people filing jobless claims now might not have been working before the coronavirus shutdowns and are applying now because of enhanced benefits.
More than 800,000 claims have been judged valid, and 575,000 Georgians have received at least their first payment, according to the department.
Last week’s 242,772 processed claims in Georgia were higher than the previous week’s 228,352 but down from a crest of 390,520 in the week that ended April 4.
Workers in hospitality have been hit hardest. Nearly a half-million jobless claims in Georgia over the past eight weeks have been for residents employed in accommodation and food services, according to Mark Butler, state labor commissioner.
But the second-largest set of layoffs in that period has been in health care, which accounts for 221,519 claims. That is a sign that the crushing demand for workers treating COVID-19 patients has been accompanied by plunging use of other health services.
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Schools, colleges and communities get creative with graduations
While the pandemic has thwarted plans for traditional graduation ceremonies, schools, colleges and neighborhoods are finding special ways to honor seniors.
Kell High School, a high school in Cobb County, celebrated with a social distance parade — students rode in their own vehicles, decorated for the parade with LED lights, glow sticks and other light-up decorations.
As the students drove to a particular area along the route, their names and plans after graduation were announced. A staff member snapped pictures.
Other schools and communities are also hosting parades and other festivities while practicing social distancing.
Georgia teens must pass driving test for license after all
Faced with criticism for allowing teenagers to obtain driver’s licenses without taking road tests, Kemp issued a new order requiring the tests.
Some 20,000 teenagers had already taken advantage of the testing waiver the governor issued last month. Under the new order, those teens must take the test by Sept. 30.
Greg Bluestein, Kristal Dixon, Michael E. Kanell and Tamar Hallerman contributed to this article.
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