Gov. Kemp keeps bars, nightclubs closed until month’s end; new restaurant rules

Kemp is also urging Georgians who test positive for COVID-19 to participate in a contact tracing program.

ATLANTA — Georgia bars and nightclubs will have to remain closed and businesses will have to continue to follow state safety guidelines until at least the end of the month, Gov. Brian Kemp announced in a news conference Tuesday.

Kemp signed a new executive order outlining the rules and guidelines as the state continues to reopen.

In his new order, Kemp is expanding the number of people allowed in restaurants.

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"We are taking another step forward, empowering restaurants to expand operations safely if they so choose. Moving forward, we will allow 10 patrons per 300 square feet of public space in restaurants and dining rooms and increase the party size per table from six to 10 people,” Kemp said.

He also announced he’s extending the business safety guidelines and the ban on bars and nightclubs to May 31.

“Live performance venues, bars and nightclubs must remain closed through May 31, 2020. I know this extension is difficult for many Georgia business owners and communities with music venues. 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 said.

He’s allowing more children to be in day care classes and the reopening of summer day camps beginning May 14, if they follow CDC guidelines.

“This new executive order will increase the number of people allowed in a single classroom of a child care facility from 10 to 20 people so long as staff-to-children ratios set by the Department of Early Care and Learning are also maintained,” Kemp said. “Child care facilities must continue to adhere to 13 minimum, mandatory criteria to be able to operate, including strict screening procedures and sanitation mandates for frequently touched items and surfaces.”

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Critics worry he’s opened the state too soon, which will lead to a spike in cases and deaths. But Kemp insists he’s following the data.

“This order is issued as COVID-19 positives, hospitalizations, ventilator use and the percentage of positive cases continues to drop. It is based on data and science and the advice of public health officials,” Kemp said.

Kemp also urged Georgians who test positive for COVID-19 to participate in a contact tracing program.

Anyone who tests positive will get a call from the Department of Public Health. They want patients to help them track this virus so state officials can get ahead of it.

“I want to strongly urge you to participate in the contact tracing program," Kemp said.

Kemp announced the new program during an afternoon news conference Tuesday, telling those diagnosed with the virus that a DPH official will contact them to get involved in contact tracing.

“Under the leadership of Dr. (Kathleen) Toomey, DPH plans to have 1,000 staff deployed in the coming weeks,” Kemp said. “To streamline contact tracing across the state, we are rolling out a new online monitoring tool, the Healthy Georgia Collaborative, which allows Georgians to identify contacts and monitor symptoms.”

The governor’s office says 13% of people tested across the state are positive for coronavirus. This is down 1% from Friday, which was down from the week prior’s 16%.

Kemp’s office said the total number of people tested for the virus is rising daily along with a declining percentage of people contracting the virus.

Meanwhile, state government is slowly getting back to some semblance of normalcy.

Lawmakers with the higher education committee met virtually Tuesday to hear how COVID-19 is affecting the Georgia Lottery and its ability to deliver profits to the HOPE Scholarship and Georgia pre-K.

From his remote location, the lottery’s Brad Bohannon said March going into April saw a 2% sales drop, leading them to project a nearly $200 million decline in money for HOPE and pre-K.

But now Bohannon says April was one of their strongest months ever, leading them to predict the losses aren’t going to be as bad as originally thought.

“We feel very comfortable increasing that number to $1.113 billion, which is down from the original $1.21 billion but by less than $100 million,” Bohannon said.

According to Bohannon, this will probably be reduced even more when the May sales numbers are in, which he said appear strong so far as more retailers are opening up.

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Some indoor playgrounds are reopening with strict protocols in place.