FILE - Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

(The Center Square) – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday ordered all bars and nightclubs closed and instructed high-risk individuals to quarantine for the next 14 days to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The directives were part of an executive order issued by the governor that also expands public assistance for low-income Georgians who depend on federal-funded programs.

“We are starting to see the impact of coronavirus on the medically fragile population, especially in long-term care facilities,” Kemp said. “State health and emergency management officials are working tirelessly to conduct testing, bolster capacity in our health-care infrastructure and prepare as we address the challenge before us.”

The shelter-in-place order issued by Kemp covers Georgians living in long-term care facilities, suffering from chronic lung disease, undergoing cancer treatment, and those having tested positive for COVID-19 or having been exposed to the disease.

The Department of Public Health will establish the rules and regulations for the order, which will take effect at noon Tuesday and last until noon April 6.

Kemp has issued a string of executive orders to try and contain COVID-19. On March 13, he declared the state's first-ever public health emergency because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Kemp’s new order will restrict social gatherings to less than 10 people, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He also authorized pharmacists to issue 90-day prescriptions and refills.

Requests for medical care have increased as the state has tested more than 5,000 Georgians for the respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus.

Medicaid and Peach CARE for Kids applications have risen by 50 percent, Kemp said. 

The state also has seen an influx of applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP. As a result, the governor has approved additional funds for each participant in the program for March and April.

The Division of Children and Family Services received 6,400 more applications than it received two weeks ago, Kemp said. That number does not account for paper applications. 

About $200 million in SNAP benefits are distributed to Georgians every month, which is an average of $225 per household, the governor said.

“This change could be a major support to senior citizens in our state who typically receive about $15 in SNAP benefits each month,” Kemp said. “This supplement will allow for them to get the maximum benefit for their household size, which is $194 for a household of one.”

The Georgia Department of Public Health on Monday afternoon reported 772 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state, including 25 deaths.

The disease has caused at least 545 deaths in the U.S., with more than 43,000 confirmed cases in the country. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.

Most people who have it develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually the elderly and those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.