Coronavirus Updates: Cities Impose More Limits As Georgia Cases Surge

A woman walks across a normally packed parking lot at The Varsity Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Atlanta.

John Bazemore / Associated Press

Updated at 6:09 p.m. Friday

Cases of the new coronavirus in Georgia continued to climb on Friday, as the death toll in the state rose to 13 from 10 a day earlier.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 jumped to 420 on Friday, up from the 287 cases the state was reporting on Thursday.

The health department did not specify where the new deaths occurred. The department announced Friday morning that it will now begin updating cases twice daily at noon and 7 p.m., up from once daily at noon.

For most people, the virus 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.

Although Gov. Brian Kemp has said he won’t order restaurants and other businesses to close, local governments continue to take those steps. The city of South Fulton outside Atlanta imposed a 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew.

The city of Savannah closed bars, gyms, movie theaters and other public spaces and ordered restaurants to cut capacity by 50%.

Other cities have gone further than Savannah, with Atlanta and the suburbs of Brookhaven and Dunwoody banning in-restaurant dining, limiting eateries to takeout and delivery service. Tybee Island banned visitors to beaches and open consumption of alcohol.

Georgia has opened at least 13 drive-thru locations for coronavirus testing and plans more. Kemp says priority for tests is being given to those at highest risk — the elderly, people who already have chronic illnesses, those in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities and first responders such as paramedics.

MARTA Among Agencies Asking Federal Government For Help

MARTA and other transit agencies around the country are asking the federal government for $16 billion to help them get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here in metro Atlanta, ridership is down by 40% to 60%, according to MARTA CEO Jeffrey Parker.

He says without help, service will have to be cut, since funding from fares and taxes is down.

The nuclear energy industry is also asking for help, including for a nuclear project in Georgia.

The industry group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, sent a letter to Trump administration officials suggesting ways the federal government could help.

One suggestion: Give grants to projects that have federal loan guarantees, like Georgia Power’s nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle, that would help cover paid leave and keep work going.

The plant near Augusta is the only nuclear power construction project in the country right now, and it is supposed to be complete in November 2022.

Quarantined cruise passengers arrive

A jet carrying 359 people including hundreds of American and Canadian cruise ship passengers home from France landed at Atlanta’s international airport on Friday as emergency responders prepared to screen them for the coronavirus, federal officials said.

Three people on the flight have tested positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms, while 13 others are sick but haven’t been tested, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.

Some passengers complained on social media that there were no health care workers or doctors in the plane and they had not been given food in 24 hours.

At least some of the passengers — many of them from the cruise ship Costa Luminosa — were being taken a hangar for screening.

The Fort Lauderdale-based ship from Italian company Costa Cruises, which in turn is owned by Carnival Corp., had been denied permission to disembark its passengers in some Caribbean ports and Spain, after that government decided to close the country’s ports to passenger traffic.

Costa Cruises said three passengers who were removed from the ship in the Cayman Islands and Puerto Rico have tested positive for COVID-19, including a 68-year-old man who died last weekend. On Monday, two European passengers who had breathing problems and one who had a fever were taken off and hospitalized during a technical stop in the Canary Islands.

Some of the passengers said they boarded the ship on March 5 in Fort Lauderdale after the company refused to give them a refund and told them it was safe to travel. Three days later, the U.S. State Department issued a warning for U.S. citizens not to travel on cruise ships.

Now that they’re in Georgia, state officials said they’re encouraging federal officials to bring commercial buses to the Atlanta airport so that troopers can escort them to another quarantine.

Farmers Markets Are Staying Open

Some Atlanta Farmers Markets say they will stay open across the metro area, but will take on new social distancing practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Grant Park Community Farmers Market has told vendors to keep customers from excessively touching products.

Officials say they are committed to farmers and vendors who rely on the market for business and want to keep matching EBT and SNAP dollars.

The Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center says it will ALSO stay open, but all food will be packaged to go.

Freedom will also have hand-washing stations set up at the entrance.

CDC Gives Tips To Preserve Short Supplied Protective Gear

The CDC says there’s a serious shortage of personal protective equipment across the country. That means some clinicians have to find ways to stretch their supplies as they deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

During a conference call this week for long term care facilities, the CDC advised them to take stock of their protective equipment. The CDC’s Kara Jacobs Slifka offered tips on how to preserve the limited supply by for example extending the use of eye and face protection.

“Which depending on your inventory, may mean that healthcare personnel wear the same face mask and eye protection for an entire shift and reprocess the eye protection for continued use,” she said.

But this, she says, only works if the clinician does not touch the eye protection or face mask during their shift. The CDC says more supplies should become available nationwide, soon.

Athens-Clarke County: Shelter In Place

Athens-Clarke County just issued a shelter-in-place ordinance that requires residents to stay home unless doing essential errands or going to work.

The order approved last night [Thursday] will also place temporary hand-washing stations around the County …

AND provides up to 3 million dollars in relief funds to those affected by the pandemic.