By Joe Johnson
Two days before Gov. Brian Kemp’s controversial plan to reopen some Georgia businesses, the state saw a 4.6- percent increase in confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) over the most recent 24-hour period and a 4.3-percent increase in patients who have died from the disease.
Even after the head of the World Health Organization this week warned that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is still to come, Kemp said he was concerned about Georgians "going broke worried about whether they can feed their children and make the mortgage payment.” Nearly 1 million Georgians have filed unemployment claims since the pandemic started.
Kemp's plan to begin reopening Georgia for business starts phasing in on Friday, when nail salons, tattoo parlors,massage therapists, bowling alleys and gyms can reopen. In-person church services can resume, and restaurants and movie theaters can open back up on Monday. Kemp's order bars cities from imposing their own restrictions on businesses.
As of noon Tuesday, there were 19,881 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, a number that increased to 20,740 as of noon Wednesday.
The number of deaths from the highly infectious disease increased statewide from 799 to 836 in that same 24-hour period, according to the DPH.
The DPH updates its coronavirus status report twice daily, at noon and 7 p.m.
In the DPH’s 10-county Northeast Health District, Athens-Clarke continues to be the hardest hit, with 116 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 13 deaths.
Barrow County is next, with 101 cases and three deaths.
Walton County had 64 confirmed cases of the disease and three deaths, according to the DPH the same statistics as on Tuesday.
The public health agency reported that Jackson County had 63 confirmed cases, up seven from the day before, with one death.
Oconee County held firm overnight, remaining at 53 cases and no deaths, according to the DPH, while Greene County saw an increase in confirmed cases from 45 to 49, and disease-related deaths remained the same, at one.
Oglethorpe County added three cases since Tuesday, and as of noon Wednesday had 37 cases and three deaths, according to the DPH.
Morgan County on Wednesday recorded 23 cases, up from 22 the day before. The county’s coronavirus death toll remained at one, according to the DPH.
Madison County increased from 16 cases and one death on Tuesday to 18 cases, with no additional deaths, the DPH said.
Elbert County, which had not seen any deaths from COVID-19, increased its number of confirmed cases from seven to 10, the DPH said.