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First coronavirus death in Georgia confirmed

By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – A 67-year-old man is the first person to die from coronavirus in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced Thursday.

State health officials have announced more than two dozen new cases in recent days. As of Wednesday night, a total of 31 people had tested positive for the respiratory virus or were awaiting confirmation by federal officials of their results.

State officials did not identify the deceased man in a news release issued just after 12:30 p.m. Thursday. He was hospitalized at WellStone Kennestone Hospital in Marietta last Saturday (March 7).

Kemp, in a statement, urged Georgians to wash their hands, to stay home if sick, and for seniors and people with serious chronic health issues to prepare to remain at home in the event of a local outbreak.

“As our state continues to address this pandemic, I urge Georgians to remain calm and support their neighbors and communities,” Kemp said. “We are in this fight together.”

Kemp is scheduled to hold a press conference at 3 p.m. to provide more details on coronavirus.

The governor is appropriating $100 million in state funds for coronavirus prevention and response efforts. Lawmakers have advised the public to monitor the ongoing legislative session from afar and avoid the Georgia Capitol in downtown Atlanta.

The Democratic Party of Georgia has called for the session to adjourned early just as it enters the busiest bill-passing stretch, with hundreds of people packed into the Capitol building. The party has also cancelled all of its political events for the foreseeable future as Georgia enters a hectic 2020 election season.

Many large gatherings like annual St. Patrick’s Day parades have been cancelled across the state. The NCAA basketball tournament hosted in Atlanta next week will be played without fans in the stands to watch.

Thousands of children were kept out of schools in the Atlanta area after a Fulton County Schools district teacher contracted the virus last week.

State officials have warned the number of confirmed coronavirus cases should increase as diagnostic testing continues. An isolation center consisting of trailers for people who cannot quarantine themselves at home has been set up on a portion of Hard Labor Creek State Park in Morgan County.

Georgia joined a growing list of states with confirmed COVID-19 cases earlier this month after a father and his son from Fulton County tested positive for the virus following the father’s trip to Milan, Italy.

The novel strain of coronavirus is thought to spread largely by “respiratory droplets” when someone coughs or sneezes after symptoms are present, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms appear within two to 14 days of contraction and include fever, coughing and shortness of breath.