Georgia legislature suspending session indefinitely amid coronavirus

March12, 2020 Atlanta - 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)

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March12, 2020 Atlanta - 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 Georgia legislature is suspending its session indefinitely due to concerns about the coronavirus, leaders announced Thursday afternoon.

The House and Senate will stop meeting after completing work Friday. Speaker David Ralston urged members of the House of Representatives to go home Thursday night or Friday morning, once the day’s work was done. House staff will begin working remotely on Friday.  Senate members are expected to be in session Friday.

“This thing’s gonna end sometime soon, and when it does, we’re coming back on (legislative) day 30,” Ralston said.

The announcement was made by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan in the Senate and Ralston in the House during one of the busiest legislative days of the year. Legislation must pass at least one chamber by the 28th working day, “Crossover Day,” in order to have a significant chance of passing. Work typically lasts until midnight.

The House of Representatives suspended its page program and stopped allowing guests Wednesday. The Senate had not made any changes to operations before Thursday's announcement.

On Wednesday, Ralston urged the public not to come to the Capitol and instead watch legislative proceedings on free live streams.

Since those decisions were made, “the reports have gotten a little — well, more than a little more concerning,” Ralston said as the House gaveled in Thursday.

The coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday, and Georgia has 31 presumed positive cases. The NBA suspended its season Wednesday night after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus, and the NCAA announced its men's basketball tournament would be played without fans in attendance.

House Democrats called for an early end to the session Thursday morning. Ralston, Duncan and Kemp met multiple times through the day before making the announcement Thursday afternoon.

“Our hope and prayer is that we are overreacting,” Ralston said. “I’d rather do this than underreacting.”

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This will impact thousands of students.