Coronavirus Updates: Kemp Holds Town Hall On COVID-19 Crisis

Gov. Brian Kemp 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.
Gov. Brian Kemp 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.
Credit John Amis / Associated Press
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Updated Thursday at 7:33 p.m.

Gov. Brian Kemp was set to hold a televised town hall event on the new coronavirus and the state’s response Thursday night at 8 p.m.

The town hall comes after Kemp 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.

The town hall featured members of the governor’s Coronavirus Task Force, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey and Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency Director Homer Bryson.

It’s being broadcast on WSB-TV, 11Alive (WXIA-TV), Fox 5 (WAGA-TV), CBS46 (WGCL-TV), Georgia Public Broadcasting, Telemundo Atlanta and Univision 34/Atlanta. WABE is also carrying the broadcast on-air and via live audio stream online.

As of 7 p.m. Thursday, 509 people were hospitalized because of the virus, according to data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. The state is reporting 1,643 confirmed cases, though testing has been limited and results can sometimes take days for people to receive. There were also 56 deaths.

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.

Another APD Officers Tests Positive

The Atlanta Police Department says another field officer has tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the department’s total to 2 confirmed cases.

Both officers are recovering at home in self-isolation.

APD officials say masks are being distributed to officers, and anyone who is arrested will also have to wear a mask on the way to jail.

The department says the coronavirus pandemic has led to a lower call volume than usual in the past week.

Sterigenics Plants Is Reopening

Cobb County is allowing the medical sterilization plant – Sterigenics – to reopen in Smyrna as the coronavirus spreads. The emergency authorization signed Wednesday was urged by the US Food and Drug Administration.

In a statement, Cobb says the plant will operate on a “limited contingency basis” and help provide medical equipment to protect against COVID-19.

The plant has been closed since August after the county put strict restrictions on the company’s use of ethylene oxide emissions. Long-term exposure can cause an increased risk of cancer.

Cobb officials say Sterigenics completed a negative air pressure test this week, and the authorization restricts the amount of ethylene oxide allowed on site.

School Districts Adopt Virtual Job Fairs

Since large gatherings are prohibited due to Coronavirus concerns, school systems have been canceling in-person job fairs. Many districts are switching to virtual fairs instead.

In most cases, the hiring process already has some electronic components–like submitting applications online and virtually “chatting” with district officials. Now, many districts are moving the whole process online.

The DeKalb Schools began a virtual job fair this week. It’s an ongoing process. Candidates complete an online application. Then principals contact qualified applicants for video interviews.

Henry County is following a similar plan. Gwinnett will hold a virtual fair for special education teachers next month where district officials conduct video interviews with applicants throughout the day.

Most districts start hiring in the spring–hoping to fill their vacancies before the next school year.

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