Gov. Kemp tells school districts to close if necessary: “Do what’s best for (your) community”

?We must do what we need to do to keep our people safe,? Kemp said.

ATLANTA — Just hours after announcing the first coronavirus death in Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp issued a call to action for educators, schools and day cares to consider closing as early as tomorrow. He said this is not a mandate, but is encouraging districts to make the best decisions for their own communities.

“We must do what we need to do to keep our people safe,” Kemp said.

Not long after the announcement, Atlanta Public Schools, Cobb County Schools, Marietta City Schools, Fulton County Schools, DeKalb County Schools, Douglas County Schools, Decatur City Schools, the University System of Georgia and others announced they will be closed starting Monday for at least two weeks.

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Rome City Schools said it will close Friday and Monday.

Kemp said that while the risk for most Georgians is low, it is important to take the precautions now to stop the spread before it gets worse and to protect those most at risk.

State officials announced Thursday morning that a 67-year-old man with underlying health conditions who contracted the virus last week died at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Cobb County.

There are currently 31 confirmed and presumed cases in Georgia.

Kemp announced in a news conference Thursday afternoon that some of those cases may be linked to a church service in Bartow County. Health officials are working with that church to notify and test other members who may have attended the same service.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey said right now the state can do about 50 tests a day for the virus and by next week will be able to do 100 tests a day. She also said the state is considering creating testing sites statewide, which could be set up as early as Monday.

Kemp urged all families to take extra precautions with their elderly family members. He said that one of his top priorities as coronavirus continues to spread in Georgia is to protect the elderly.

Those over the age of 60 or anyone with chronic health conditions are more at risk to develop complications from the virus than other individuals, according to health experts.

Kemp encouraged all families to come up with ways to keep their elderly family members more isolated.

“We need to help them dramatically limit their exposure to the public for the foreseeable future,” Kemp said.

He encouraged anyone who is at a greater risk for contracting the virus to avoid any large gatherings, including faith-based services.

“I hope this thing is overblown but if it’s not we’ve got to do everything in our power to protect our elderly loved ones and those who are at risk,” Kemp said.

Kemp is also creating committees to keep supplies moving, and to evaluate the economic impact of the disease.

“The economic impact is going to be substantial, not only for our state but for our country. These are unprecedented times that we are in,” he said.

For a full list of coronavirus closures, cancellations and updates, click here.

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