Updated Friday at 11:29 p.m.
As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to rise in the state, Governor Brian Kemp is advising Georgians the pandemic hasn’t gone away.
He posted a video message to Twitter earlier Wednesday.
“We cannot grow complacent. This virus is deadly and remains a threat to our great state,” he said. “Let’s stay vigilant in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Kemp said people should consider wearing masks and should practice social distancing.
That, while state officials have imposed no mask requirements and have continued to lift shelter-at-home restrictions in recent weeks.
Numbers released Wednesday show that the number of people hospitalized with coronavirus infections rose to 1,124. That’s the highest number since May 12 and a 44% increase since the number of hospitalized people bottomed out on June 7.
The Georgia Department of Health confirmed more than 69,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state Wednesday and 2,698 deaths. More than 10,000 people have been hospitalized overall.
On Friday, Kemp said at a press conference that he had no plans to put the state’s reopening on pause or to require citizens wear masks.
Kemp’s remarks Wednesday came as Democrats in the legislature asked whether Kemp would extend his emergency powers and the state’s public universities continue to announce plans to resume in-person instruction.
When lawmakers approved Kemp’s declaration of a public health emergency in March, they gave him the ability to extend his emergency powers without their approval. Kemp still is ordering restrictions, such as barring visitors from nursing homes, and his current orders run through at least June 30.
The Democrats asked Kemp to make clear what additional orders he may issue after lawmakers adjourn on Friday.
“We want to return to normal state governmental operations as soon as possible,” Sen. Steve Henson of Stone Mountain and Rep. Bob Trammell of Luthersville, the Democratic leaders in each chamber, said in a statement. “Leaving the legislative session without addressing the status of the Governor’s emergency powers would be irresponsible.”
Kemp’s office didn’t immediately respond to the Democrats’ statement.
Med School To Help Fight Virus In Minority Communities
The Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta will partner with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fight COVID-19 among racial and ethnic minority groups.
The agency announced a $40 million award to the historically-Black school Tuesday.
It will fund a three-year program to help some of those hardest hit by the pandemic by better connecting minority communities with information about COVID-19 and how to get treated for it.
“This specific award is to have Morehouse lead a consortium of organizations to really focus on the specific educational, testing, and linkage to care needs of underserved minorities and some of those also in the rural population,” said Adm. Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary of Health for HHS, as he testified before a Congressional committee Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says members of minority groups are more likely to get sicker and die from COVID-19.
The agency attributes that disparity to a number of social factors and health factors, such as residential segregation, employment opportunities, and lower access to healthcare.
“Underlying social determinants of health and disparate burdens of chronic medical conditions are contributing to worse COVID-19-related outcomes in minority and socially vulnerable communities, and this partnership with Morehouse School of Medicine is essential to improving our overall response,” Adm. Giroir said in a release.
HHS says the initial round of funding for $14.6 million is set to begin in July.
Lawmakers Aim To Protest Businesses From COVID-19 Suits
Georgia lawmakers want to give broad protections to businesses from being sued if someone blames them for catching COVID-19.
House Bill 167 passed Tuesday and will go back to the House for more debate.
Under the bill, a business would have to display “willful and wanton misconduct” or reckless or intentional infliction of harm to lose a lawsuit.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.