ATLANTA - Gov. Brian Kemp and Georgia’s top legislative leaders jointly announced Wednesday they will extend a statewide public health emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic through May 13.
Kemp first declared a public health emergency back on March 14 as COVID-19 began taking hold in Georgia. Lawmakers ratified the governor’s order two days later during a one-day special session and set the declaration to expire on April 13.
“This measure will allow us to continue to deploy resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our health-care facilities,” Kemp said in a prepared statement. “We deeply appreciate the hard work of Georgians who are sheltering in place, using social distancing, and helping us flatten the curve. We are in this fight together.”
The extension of the public health emergency by Kemp, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan – the state Senate’s presiding officer – and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston came as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the resulting deaths continued to mount.
As of Tuesday night, 9,156 Georgians had tested positive for coronavirus and 348 had died from the virus.
“We must continue our aggressive fight against COVID-19," Duncan said. “By extending the public health state of emergency, we can ensure Georgians have access to every available state resource during this crisis.”
"The entirety of our state government is working to protect the health and safety of our citizens,” added Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. “While we have difficult days ahead, we continue to coordinate with both local and federal partners in responding to needs as they arise. As Georgians, we will persevere and emerge stronger on the other side.”
Kemp is extending the public health emergency declaration without having to call the legislature back for another special session.
After hours of behind-the-scenes negotiations during the one-day special session last month, the General Assembly passed a resolution authorizing the governor to extend the declaration unilaterally if lawmakers were unable to return to the Capitol this month because of the limit on large gatherings necessitated by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the state remains under a separate statewide shelter-in-place order that took effect last Friday. That order is due to expire at 11:59 p.m. April 13 unless Kemp acts to extend it.
Kemp, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey, state Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson, and Georgia National Guard Adjutant General Tom Carden are scheduled to deliver an update on the state’s COVID-19 response efforts Wednesday afternoon.