Georgia residents are growing more concerned as parks and recreation areas across the state remain crowded despite government orders to practice social distancing. And Dr. Anthony Fauci, who has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for more than 30 years, warns deaths from COVID-19 could top 100,000 in the United States.
Here is the latest coronavirus news from Georgia for Sunday, March 28, 2020.
As of 7 p.m. Sunday, there are 2,683 confirmed cases with 678 people hospitalized and 83 deaths in Georgia, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. A total of 12,564 Georgians have been tested by commercial and private labs.
The state now has cases of COVID-19 in 113 of its 159 counties, whereas on Monday, March 23, only 70 counties reported cases. As of 7 p.m. that evening there were 800 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 26 reported deaths. Just over 5,000 tests had been performed by state and commercial labs.
Albany, the epicenter of an outbreak in southwest Georgia, had as of Friday the fourth-highest rate of infection per capita of all cities in U.S., according to the New York Times.
As of Sunday morning, the U.S. had about 125,000 infections and 2,200 deaths.
The largest percent of people with COVID-19 in Georgia are between the ages of 18 and 59 (56%).
Worldwide, more than 680,000 confirmed cases as of noon Sunday led to roughly 145,000 people recovered from the illness and 32,000 who have died of COVID-19. Georgia's state health department is not currently reporting the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19.
Officials Will Enforce Social Distancing at Parks, Lakes
Increasing calls for Gov. Brian Kemp to shut down the state have been met with local cities' decisions to put out shelter-in-place orders. Gwinnet and DeKalb counties' orders went into effect Saturday.
Kemp and Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams issued a joint statement reminding Georgia residents there is a statewide, mandatory shelter-in-place order for medically-fragile individuals. DNR officials will enforce the order by patrolling bodies of water and campgrounds.
In all 159 counties, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned unless there is at least a 6-foot distance between people at all times.
Residents have been traveling to nearby counties, heading outdoors for fresh air and maximizing family time, and some are visiting vacation homes, hitting the lake, hiking trails or campgrounds.
"We, too, enjoy exploring Georgia, but we urge people to stay mindful of social distancing, follow best practices, and avoid large crowds," the joint statement said.
DNR officials are monitoring coves where people tend to congregate and, if necessary, using bullhorns to tell people to comply with the order.
Many residents on Twitter criticized Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms after she reminded people they can get outside as long as they maintain their distance.
“Please let her know that it’s perfectly ok to go out and walk. Just please make sure she keeps a safe distance away from everyone,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tweeted in response to a resident whose mother was afraid to continue her daily walks amid coronavirus concerns.
Atlanta BeltLine CEO Clyde Higgs spoke with GPB's All Things Considered about best practices to stay safe if you must go out to locations like the BeltLine and other outdoor green spaces. Listen here.
Millions of Americans will be infected by the coronavirus, top doc says
The U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert warned Sunday that between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans could die of COVID-19, the Associated Press reports.
The dire prediction came from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
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Delta will fly medical volunteers to Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan
In an attempt to support states hit hardest by COVID-19, Delta Air Lines is offering free round trip flights for eligible medical volunteers to Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan, according to a press release sent March 27. Volunteers will work in coordination with state and local government offices to be deployed to hospitals in need. Flights are currently being offered for the month of April and can be booked up to three days in advance.
First infant death reported in U.S.
The first death of an infant from COVID-19 was reported Saturday, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. Only 1% of Georgia cases involve people age 17 and younger.
“There has never before been a death associated with COVID-19 in an infant," IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said. "A full investigation is underway to determine the cause of death. We must do everything we can to prevent the spread of this deadly virus. If not to protect ourselves, but to protect those around us.”
COVID-19 spreads through Georgia Correctional Facilities
A 49-year-old Lee State Prison inmate who had previously tested positive for COVID-19 died at a hospital in Albany, officials with the Department of Corrections said Friday.
While it is unknown exactly how the virus made its way to the prison, Lee State Prison is near one of Georgia’s coronavirus “hotspots” in Albany, where hospital systems have been overwhelmed with cases and deaths related to COVID-19.
Emergency waivers submitted by Gov. Brian Kemp and Department of Community Health to support healthcare workers
The 1135 Medicaid and Medicare waivers requested will allow Georgia healthcare providers to care for patients without the red tape of federal regulations during the current public health emergency, Kemp's office said Saturday.
The governor’s office stressed the waivers will not compromise the level of care patients receive, DCH Commissioner Frank Berry said.
"Some examples of requested flexibilities include modifying the Medicaid authorizations process to enhance fee-for-service prior authorization requirements by extending certain pre-existing authorizations; expediting long-term care services and supports process for pre-admission screening and annual resident review; extending fair hearings and appeal timelines for managed care and fee-for-service enrollees; streamlining provider enrollment, recredentialing, and revalidation processes, including for out-of-state providers; modifying reporting and oversight requirements in certain healthcare facilities; and expanding provider settings to help ensure our providers can deliver care in non-traditional settings," Berry said in a statement.
These waiver requests, in addition to a recent expansion of telehealth options for patients and providers, will help to promote access to care during this unprecedented public health emergency, Berry said.