Some people exposed to the new coronavirus are going home in Georgia even as cases of COVID-19 continue to grow.
The Georgia Public Health Department reported 99 cases at noon Sunday, up from 66 on Saturday. Most remain in metro Atlanta and northwest Georgia, although the Albany area in southwest Georgia reports eight cases across two counties. The Athens area also reported its first two cases.
The only patient who was isolated at a state quarantine site told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution that he was being sent home from Hard Labor Creek State Park near Rutledge. Joey Camp said he was headed home to Canton after state health officials said he no longer needed to be isolated, despite believing he would be at the quarantine site for days longer.
A few of the nearly 500 people quarantined at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta after getting off the Grand Princess cruise ship were also going home Sunday. Gov. Brian Kemp announced Saturday the Georgia National Guard would escort Georgians home to complete their quarantines. The Dobbins quarantine site has seen complaints about medical care, food and other necessities.
Cases continue to be reported among people who had contact with many others. The Fulton County school system, which already had two teachers at middle schools in Fairburn and East Point infected, said Sunday that an employee at Banneker High School in Union City has also been confirmed as sick. The school system said public health officials will contact people who have been exposed.
The Atlanta suburb of Brookhaven on Saturday closed its city hall until March 30 after an employee was infected. The city also closed all parks and community centers.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
Kemp signed a public health emergency declaration Saturday, which the General Assembly will return Monday morning to ratify. Kemp has authorized calling up as many as 2,000 members of the Georgia National Guard. State Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton on Saturday declared a judicial emergency, suspending all but essential court functions.
Economic ripples are also beginning to be felt. Delta Air Lines told local news outlets that it is laying off more than 800 contract employees, describing it as “a very tough but necessary decision.”
Contractor AgileOne said it would seek to place workers elsewhere. Delta is metro Atlanta’s largest private sector employer with 34,000 local workers. It’s encouraging direct employees to take unpaid leave as it cuts capacity by more than 40% worldwide.
Two utilities owned by Atlanta-based Southern Co. — Georgia Power Co. and Atlanta Gas Light, announced Saturday they wouldn’t disconnect residential and business customers who can’t pay bills because of COVID-19.