Kemp’s order, combined with the emergency declaration, signaled a change in strategy.
Until now, the Republican largely resisted mandating restrictions on large gatherings, schools or businesses to respond to an outbreak that’s sickened at least 121 Georgians and killed one.
Instead, he issued a "call to action" encouraging community leaders to scrap events, pleaded with Georgians to "incorporate social distancing" and urged school administrators to consider shutting their doors.
The governor’s office said Kemp could have ordered the schools closed without the unprecedented authority that lawmakers approved on Monday.
In a statement, he said closing schools and colleges through March 31 was “critical to reducing local transmission in communities across our state.”
“I ask Georgians to continue to follow best practices - washing their hands regularly, isolating the elderly and chronically ill, and avoiding large events if possible - in the days and weeks ahead,” said Kemp.