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Kemp Orders Bars to Stay Closed Through End of May

Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order Tuesday telling bars, nightclubs and live performance venues to stay closed at least through May 31.

“I know this extension is difficult for many Georgia business owners and communities that have music venues,” Kemp said. “However, we believe that waiting a little bit longer will enhance health outcomes and give folks the opportunity to prepare for safe reopening in the near future.”

Kemp closed bars, restaurants and many other types of businesses on Apr. 2 as the coronavirus pandemic spread (pre-empting an earlier local order in Athens that was passed Mar. 19). He allowed some—including restaurants, movie theaters, bowling alleys, tattoo parlors and hair and nail salons—to reopen late last month, if they took safety precautions.

Those precautions, clarified in Kemp’s Tuesday order, include limiting parties in restaurants and theaters to fewer than 10 people and seating those parties at least six feet apart. Employees must also be screened for fever before work, wear personal protective equipment and sanitize regularly.

The order also includes new regulations for summer camps.

While the statewide shelter-in-place order has been lifted, people who are over 65, immunosuppressed, severely obese or have conditions like heart or kidney disease, asthma or diabetes are still under orders to stay home except for essential business like buying food or seeking medical attention.

In addition, Kemp amended an earlier order exempting first-time drivers from taking a road test before receiving a driver’s license. They must now take a driving test by Sept. 30. The Georgia Department of Driver Services is currently open by appointment only, although renewals can be done online.

Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey told reporters that the Department of Public Health is hiring 750 new contact tracers, bringing the total to 1,000. Those tracers will get in touch with anyone who’s come into contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus and advise them to self-quarantine for 14 days. Public health officials consider widespread testing and tracing to be an important step toward allowing the uninfected population to return to something resembling normalcy.

DPH continues to confirm hundreds of new COVID-19 cases per day — a total of 35,000 as of today, with nearly 1,500 deaths. However, Kemp said that hospital admissions and ventilator use are on the decline.