Kemp extends school closures as Georgia virus deaths near 50

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ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s governor on Thursday extended an order to keep the state’s public schools closed because of the new coronavirus, as the death toll in the state rose to 48.

As of noon Thursday, 473 people were hospitalized because of the virus, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. The state is reporting 1,525 confirmed cases, though testing has been limited and results can sometimes take days for people to receive.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s order keeps K-12 public schools across the state closed through April 24 and closes public colleges and universities for the rest of the semester. Many school districts had already decided to extended closures on their own, after an earlier order signed by Kemp that banned gathering of 10 or more people.

Also Thursday, the Georgia state Board of Education waived a series of state rules and laws in moves that will let school districts graduate seniors and promote other students even if coursework is incomplete. Many of Georgia’s 180 local school systems were already exempt from most of the rules under earlier flexibility agreements, but the move extends the flexibility to all. The state also changed the fee structure for enrolling students in online classes offered by the Georgia Virtual School.

Georgia's weekly unemployment filings more than doubled to nearly 12,000 for the week that ended March 21, but did not increase nearly as much as those nationwide or in neighboring states, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. The reason for the lower increase was not immediately clear.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

With infections spreading rapidly, some hospitals across the country are already struggling to keep up.

Dougherty County in southwest Georgia, which has 156 confirmed cases, is one area that has been particularly hard hit. A large influx of coronavirus patients has stretched resources thin at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany as officials scramble to find more bed space.

Kemp is set to hold a televised townhall event on the new coronavirus and the state’s response Thursday night at 8 p.m. EDT.


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