Sen. Gooch reviews General Assembly



By: Sen. Steve Gooch (R – Dahlonega)

ATANTA — On Monday, Jan. 11, members of the Senate and the House officially gaveled in to begin the 2021 Legislative Session. The new session brings with it many familiar motions and procedures, including formally electing our President Pro Tempore, Secretary of the Senate, and Sergeant at Arms. All members of the General Assembly, both new and returning, were also officially sworn in to begin their new terms in office. In the Senate, we have eleven members who will be experiencing their first session with us and I am looking forward to getting to know them all as work to make Georgia as great as it can be.

While there were many similarities between this session and others I have experienced, new protocols have been introduced as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has drastically changed the way we do business at the Capitol. To start, all members of the General Assembly and Capitol staff are required to undergo COVID-19 testing twice a week. For those who test positive, a robust contact tracing program has been implemented to mitigate exposure of the virus. Additionally, seating in our committee rooms has been spaced out in order to socially distance committee members and new procedures have been introduced to promote fewer crowds on the Senate floor. I’m happy to report that testing and tracing has been working as intended and we are confident these measures will reduce the risk of an outbreak while we are in session.

Importantly, we are continuously working to get the COVID-19 vaccine to those in the most need. First, it is important to note that there are currently two different COVID-19 vaccines available in Georgia: Pfizer and Moderna. Both are proven to be effective and require two doses, but they differ in that Pfizer requires the doses being administered three weeks apart and Moderna requires 28 days. Right now, Georgia is receiving 120,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine each week and they are being deployed in three different phases. We are currently in the first (Phase 1), and doses are being administered to healthcare workers, employees and residents of long-term care facilities, first responders, and adults aged 65 and above. We will then move to the next phase which will include non-healthcare essential workers, followed by the final phase which will include those between the ages of 16-64 with preexisting medical conditions. If you fall into any of the groups that make up Phase 1, I encourage you to find a COVID-19 Vaccination Site near you and follow additional guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website.

On Thursday, we heard the annual State of the State Address delivered by Governor Brian Kemp. This speech highlighted a few of the Governor’s main budget priorities for the upcoming budget cycle, with a particular emphasis being placed on areas impacted by COVID-19. Specifically, the Governor is proposing $1.2 billion over the next few years to public education and $1,000 to go towards educators to ensure schools can reopen safely. Additionally, the Governor called for increased investment in rural broadband infrastructure, to expand high-speed internet access to communities such as ours.

Next week, these proposals will be examined in closer detail when members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees will meet to examine the state’s current and projected budgetary needs. “Budget Week” is one of the most important times of any legislative session, perhaps none more important than the one we are about to witness. If you ever have any questions about any of the legislative proposals we take up, progress on COVID-19 vaccinations or any budgetary items, please feel free to contact my office.

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Sen. Steve Gooch serves as the Senate Majority Whip.  He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Union and White counties and portions of Forsyth and Pickens counties.  He may be reached at 404.656.9221 or via email at [email protected].

21 counties receive disaster relief funds

News, Press Release


ATLANTA –Governor Brian Kemp requested a Major Disaster Declaration for Tropical Storm Zeta based on joint federal, state and local preliminary damage assessments totaling more than $22 million. The disaster declaration approved by President Donald Trump makes public assistance available for 21 counties in Georgia.

“The declaration will provide resources to help offset the costs of Tropical Storm Zeta,” said Chris Stallings, GEMA/HS Director. “It will be a great help to the communities recovering from this event.”

Public Assistance is available to state and local government entities and qualified not-for-profit organizations in Banks, Carroll, Cherokee, Dawson, Douglas, Fannin, Forsyth, Franklin, Gilmer, Habersham, Hall, Haralson, Heard, Lumpkin, Paulding, Pickens, Rabun, Stephens, Towns, Union and White Counties. It will provide financial aid for debris removal and repairs to roads, bridges and power infrastructure for up to 75 percent of the cost for the project.

In addition, under this declaration all areas in the State of Georgia are eligible for assistance under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. HMGP provides assistance for actions taken to prevent or reduce long-term risk to life and property from natural hazards.


As part of the Office of the Governor, the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency collaborates with local, state and federal governments in partnership with private sector and non-governmental organizations to protect life and property against man-made and natural emergencies. GEMA/HS’s Ready Georgia website and preparedness campaign provides Georgians with the knowledge needed to effectively prepare for disasters. Go to for information on developing a custom emergency plan and Ready kit.

Kemp opens bars and renews state of emergency

State & National

ATLANTA, Ga – Gov. Brian Kemp decided to continue the state of emergency and stay at home order for the elderly and at-risk individuals through July 12. However, the governor also announced the reopening of bars, amusement parks, night clubs, professional sports, and overnight summer camps.

Music venues must remain closed.

Kemp issued timelines for the lifting of each restriction.

May 31 Openings

  • Overnight Summer Camps

June 1 Openings

  • Gatherings of 25 people will be allowed – if the area meets space requirements
  • Bars
  • Night Clubs
  • Professional Sports
  • Amateur Sports

June 12 Openings

  • Amusement Parks
  • Water Parks

Georgia will not mandate citizens to wear masks, but Kemp highly encourages everyone to wear masks in crowded areas and public places.

66 percent of nursing home residents have been tested for COVID-19. On June 1, the Department of Public Health will move to once-daily updates of coronavirus numbers.

Dahlonega begins opening facilities Monday

DAHLONEGA, Ga., –– On May 12, Governor Kemp issued a new 30-page executive order further detailing Georgia’s steps for reopening and returning the state to normal business activities. Among many additional guidelines for essential and non-essential businesses, the order also extends the state of emergency through mid-June, requires those 65 and older as well as medically fragile populations to continue sheltering in place through June 12, and Georgia bars, live performance venues and nightclubs remain closed through 11:59 p.m. on May 31, unless otherwise extended. The full order is available on the state website here.
The detailed order provides specific guidelines for summer camps to resume operations with overnight camps prohibited for now. Also prohibited are large gatherings of 10 or more people unless there is at least six feet between each person with exceptions for critical infrastructure, cohabitating persons or family units, transitory or incidental grouping, and dining rooms and restaurants with no more than 10 patrons per 300-square-feet.
In follow-up to Governor Kemp’s announcement, the Dahlonega City Council held a special called meeting on May 13 to discuss reopening city facilities and resuming non-essential business functions.
• City Hall will officially reopen to the public on Monday, May 18, with the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. dedicated to serving visitors 60 years of age and older and the balance of the day through 5:00 p.m. available to anyone. Residents are encouraged to continue using online payment options and the drop-boxes located at City Hall and old BB&T lot on West Main as a preferred social distancing option. Visitors to City Hall will have access to hand sanitizer and courtesy disposable face masks as well as individual water bottles as opposed to public fountains. While inside City Hall, social distancing requirements—a minimum of six feet—will be observed.
• City Park, located behind City Hall, remains closed to the public as it is undergoing previously scheduled renovations. City staff anticipate reopening the park to the public in several weeks.
• The Wimpy Mill picnic area remains open and will undergo additional daily cleaning as part of COVID-19 response efforts.
• Hancock Park, diving bell and pavilion are open for passive use by individuals, but not organized social gatherings of ten or more. The public restrooms, and the Gold Adventures playground equipment, remain closed to the public at this time. City staff are working through the logistics and obtaining the supplies necessary to clean and safely maintain these high-contact public facilities. The anticipated park reopening date is Saturday, May 23, but may be limited to weekend use only.
The city will increase its regular cleaning schedules for all city facilities and all Dahlonega staff will be wearing cloth face masks while on-duty in and outside city facilities, unless working on-site at an active construction or repair site. Resumption of regular trash pick-up will be announced at a later date.
“We want to encourage residents who aren’t feeling well or who are running a temperature to remain at home,” said City Manager Bill Schmid. “Our staff are ready to assist you by phone at 706-864-6133 and by email at [email protected] in the event you are not well and need to conduct city business.”
“I am encouraged by the data for Lumpkin County and remain hopeful things are moving in the right direction,” said Mayor Sam Norton. “Let’s all be safe, practice good common sense, and get through this together!”
Northeast Georgia Health System COVID-19 information –
FEMA’s Coronavirus Rumor Control –
Georgia Department of Public Health –
District 2 Public Health Department –

Shelter in Place order extended for medically fragile until June 12

Press Release, State & National
shelter in place

ATLANTA, Ga – Governor Brian P. Kemp signed Executive Order which extends the medically fragile shelter in place and the Public Health State of Emergency until June 12.

The entire statement from the governor is below:

“Tonight at 11:59 PM, the statewide shelter in place order for most Georgians will expire. However, moving forward, I am urging Georgians to continue to stay home whenever possible. I want to thank the people of our great state who heeded public health advice, afforded us time to bolster our healthcare infrastructure, and flattened the curve. We were successful in these efforts, but the fight is far from over.

“In accordance with our executive orders, businesses across the Peach State must continue to operate with strict social distancing and sanitation rules to keep customers and employees safe through May 13, 2020. Those rules vary by business type for a measured, health-driven approach.

“The health and well-being of Georgians are my top priorities, and my decisions are based on data and advice from health officials. I will do what is necessary to protect the lives – and livelihoods – of our people. I will formally extend our public health state of emergency through June 12, 2020, to continue enhanced testing across Georgia, ramp up contact tracing, and maintain effective emergency response operations in every region.

“To protect vulnerable populations, I will sign an order today requiring medically fragile and elderly Georgians to continue to shelter in place through June 12, 2020. In addition, I will order long-term care facilities – including nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living facilities, and similar community living homes – to utilize enhanced infection control protocols, ensure safer living conditions, and protect residents and staff from coronavirus exposure.

“Together, we will defeat this virus and emerge stronger. Thank you, and God Bless.”

Click here to view a video message from the Governor.

April 27 to be a day of prayer for Georgia as fight against COVID-19 continues

Press Release
severe day of prayer

Atlanta, GA – On Monday, April 27, Governor Brian P. Kemp will join Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, Speaker David Ralston, and faith leaders from across Georgia in holding a Day of Prayer service in the rotunda of the Georgia State Capitol at 10:00 a.m. As the state continues to battle COVID-19, Kemp, Duncan, and Ralston are calling on all Georgians and members of the faith community around the state to participate by posting videos of their prayers on social media throughout the day.

“Our unprecedented battle with COVID-19 has proven the resolve of the people of Georgia to fight hard, come together, and do what is necessary to stop the spread of the virus,” said Governor Kemp. “While we cannot all be together right now, we can join with one another in prayer for our frontline healthcare workers, first responders, law enforcement, business owners, local leaders, and fellow Georgians as we continue the important work of fighting COVID-19 and safely reopening our state. On Monday, I am calling on all Georgians to participate in our Day of Prayer by posting on social media and showing their support for their fellow citizens.”

“COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on countless lives across our state and nation. In the midst of tremendous loss, uncertainty, and anxiety, I look forward to joining together in prayer,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “Faith and prayer are a comfort to millions of Georgians, and whatever your background, I hope Monday will be a chance for us to focus on those who are hurting and seek wisdom for the hard road ahead.”

“I’m very proud of the response to this crisis by our state government and local and federal partners as well as healthcare workers and frontline personnel,” said Speaker David Ralston. “In such trying times, it is appropriate that we come together to pray for those battling this disease and its impact as well as those who have tragically lost loved ones. I join with Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan, and all Georgians in praying for the mercy and comfort of our Lord as we look forward to brighter days ahead.”

To ensure adherence to social distancing guidelines, the Day of Prayer service will not be open to the general public. Georgians are encouraged to participate via livestream at at 10:00 a.m.

Georgia Dept. of Labor addresses unemployment options

Press Release, State & National

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp and the Georgia Department of Labor are partnering to ensure Georgians understand their unemployment options as the state begins the safe reopening of businesses. Governor Kemp announced plans Monday to safely and incrementally reopen sectors of the economy, and today, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler encouraged employers to work with employees to determine a successful return to work plan.

“Thanks to Governor Kemp and his support, we were able to issue an emergency rule that increased the earnings exemption amount from $55 to $300 allowing individuals to make $300 a week without reducing their weekly benefit amount,” said Commissioner Butler. “If a business opens back up slowly and their employees are returning to work with reduced hours, employers can continue to file employer-filed partial claims on behalf of their employees.”

Pursuant to the emergency rule issued on March 26, 2020, an individual can make up to $300 per week without reducing their maximum weekly benefit amount, allowing employees to work reduced hours and still qualify for state weekly benefits and the federal $600 weekly supplement.

“As we take measured steps to reopen sectors of our state’s economy, it is vital that we continue to support Georgians trying to re-enter the workforce,” said Governor Kemp. “Commissioner Butler and the Department of Labor are working around the clock to do just that. Their action under historic circumstances will continue to give our state’s workforce viable options to put food on the table for their families as we fight COVID-19 together.”

Employer-filed partial claims account for 75 percent of the state’s 1.1 million claims since March 14. Employers are required to report an individual’s weekly gross wages when certifying on behalf of the employee with the GDOL. These employer-filed partial claims can include full-time and part-time employees, as long as employers are accurately reporting an individual’s weekly wages. An employer’s account will not be charged for claims filed against it for employer-filed partial claims during this time.

“Despite claims to the contrary, returning to work does not automatically eliminate an individual’s state unemployment eligibility,” said Butler. “In fact, we designed this provision to encourage employers to continue to file while returning employees to work to take advantage of the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) benefits.”

The rule states that earnings of $300 or less will not affect entitlement to benefits. Any amount over $300 will be deducted from a claimant’s weekly benefit amount, a payment determination based on an employee’s past wages. As long as a claimant is awarded at least $1 in state benefits, he or she is eligible to receive Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), the additional $600 weekly payment.

“This option was created with lower wage employees in mind,” said Butler. “Allowing Georgians to supplement their income by making an additional $300 or so a week while continuing to receive state benefits, and now the federal supplement, will allow them to continue to heal from the economic wounds brought about by COVID-19.”

If a decision is made by an employee to separate from his/her place of employment, the employee has the right to file an individual claim where an eligibility determination will be made based on the facts presented in the case.

“If an employee is concerned about returning to work due to exposure to COVID-19, we are encouraging employees to communicate with their employers on plans to safely return to work,” explained Butler. “We are all working together on getting Georgians back to work in a safe and stable environment.”

Information on filing an individual unemployment claim, details on how employers must file employer-filed partial claims, and resources for other reemployment assistance can be found on the agency’s webpage at

NGHS reports 111 COVID-19 cases


GAINESVILLE, Ga. – Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) which operates hospitals in Gainesville, Dahlonega, Braselton and Winder,  has released data about its COVID-19 cases.  Monday afternoon, NGHS reported that 15 deaths have occurred and 111 COVID-19 patients had been treated.

While this information is shared with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) each day, it may not match what is available on the Georgia DPH website due to a lag in how the information is verified and updated.

“Keep in mind, due to challenges that still exist with testing, we are confident that even our latest data doesn’t truly reveal all cases that exist in our community,” says Supriya Mannepalli, MD, chair of Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s Infection Prevention & Control Committee. “It’s a certainty there are more people with COVID-19 in our region who haven’t been tested and aren’t showing any symptoms.”

On Monday, Gov. Brian Kemp announced plans to reopen parts of Georgia’s economy, including barber shops, hair salons, gyms and fitness centers later this week and restaurants by April 27.

NGHS has a predictive model – which applies widely respected methodology developed by the University of Pennsylvania to real-time data from NGHS – which currently shows COVID-19 activity may eventually outpace the health system’s capacity.

“It’s true that we have some capacity for patients today, but that is extremely likely to change,” says Clifton Hastings, MD, chief of NGMC’s Medical Staff. “The only way to lessen the likelihood of our hospitals being overwhelmed is for people to continue following expert recommendations to stay home as much as possible, wear masks and isolate if you develop symptoms.”

“Our intensive care units in Gainesville and Braselton are hovering between 60-80% full on any given day, and they would have already been overwhelmed if we had not recently increased our total ICU beds from 91 to 134,” says Michael Covert, NGHS chief operating officer. “We look forward to adding 20 more beds when a mobile ICU unit granted by the state arrives on May 5. We have also increased the number of medical/surgical beds across all four hospitals from 474 to 522, and we have a total of 108 ventilators across the health system.”

NGHS President and CEO Carol Burrell said, “Some people may think we are overstating the seriousness of the situation, and they’re anxious to get back to ‘business as usual,Trust me, as a non-profit, we understand that sentiment for many reasons. But our physician leaders, clinical experts and objective data all tell us now is not the time to relax. Rather, now is the time to continue to take every precaution we can.”

People can continue to get the latest information about what they need to do if they feel sick, how NGHS is responding to the pandemic and how the community can help at

“We know people are tired of staying home, but this is about saving as many lives as possible,” says Burrell. “Thank you for doing your part, and know you should be proud of our entire team – physicians, clinical staff, support staff, everyone – who are working tirelessly to care for you and your loved ones.”

Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is a non-profit on a mission of improving the health of our community in all we do. Our team cares for more than 1 million people across the region through four hospitals and a variety of outpatient locations. Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has campuses in Gainesville, Braselton, Winder and Dahlonega – with a total of more than 700 beds and more than 1,100 medical staff members representing more than 50 specialties. Learn more at

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at

Georgia Board of Cosmetology and Barbers Issues Safety Guidelines for Reopening

Press Release, State & National

Atlanta, GA – Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers issued guidance for the safe reopening of Georgia’s salons and spas.

“I deeply appreciate the work of Kay Kendrick and the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers to prepare guidelines for implementation by Georgia’s shops and salons,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “As we begin the process of safely reopening our economy, it is critical that business owners, operators, and contractors adhere strictly to increased safety and sanitation guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Working together, I am confident that we can get these sectors back online and work to ensure the health and safety of all Georgians.”

“I am very happy that Governor Kemp decided that we can reopen our salons and spas,” said Kay Kendrick, chair of the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers. “We have 95,000 licensees under our board, most of whom are independent contractors that have no other source of income.

“Under our sanitation laws and rules, we are charged with the responsibility of protecting consumers from the spread of contagious diseases everyday in our salons. By adding the safety guidelines that have been developed by the board and some of our industry leaders in the cosmetology and barber profession, we feel that our professionals will be able to do an even better job of protecting themselves and their clients. I trust that all our professionals will use these guidelines to be safe and protect their clients. “

Salon/shop owners and managers should use the OSHA “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” as a guide for reopening. Below are some of the top-level guidelines for salon and spa operators to follow. The complete list of guidelines will be available here.

Temperature Checks: Salons should consider use of a touchless infrared thermometer to check the temperature of employees each day and of each client who enters the salon/shop.

Screening Questions: Ask each client entering the shop the following questions – Have you had a cough? Have you had a fever? Have you been around anyone exhibiting these symptoms within the past 14 days? Are you living with anyone who is sick or quarantined?

Limit People In Shops/Salons: Salons/shops should consider seeing clients by appointment only. Salons/shops should consider telephonic or online scheduling. Limit the number of persons in the waiting area of the salon/shop. It is recommended that clients wait outside the salon/shop in their vehicle until the cosmetologist or barber is ready to serve them. It is recommended that persons not being serviced in the salon/shop wait outside the salon/shop.

Maintain Social Distancing: Spacing between persons in the salon should be at least six feet at all times. Salons/shops should consider additional spacing between booths, divider shields, and/or alternate work schedules.

Use of Personal Protective Equipment and Best Practices: Salon/shop employees will be required to wear masks at all times. Salons may want to consider providing masks to clients. Clients should wear face masks to the extent possible while receiving services. Salons/shops should also make use of face shields, gloves, disposable or re-washable capes, smocks, neck strips, etc. These items should be disinfected or disposed of between each client. Employees should should arrive at the salon/shop showered and wearing clean clothing and change clothes before leaving the salon/shop each day. Hand washing with soap and warm water, for a minimum of 20 seconds will be required by employees between every client service.

Disinfection: All salons/shops should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to reopening. Disinfect all surfaces, tools, and linens, even if they were cleaned before the salon/shop was closed. Salons/shops should maintain regular disinfection of all tools, shampoo bowls, pedicure bowls, workstations, treatment rooms, and restrooms. Additionally, salons/shops should remove all unnecessary items (magazines, newspapers, service menus, and any other unnecessary paper products/decor) from reception areas and ensure that these areas and regularly touched surfaces are consistently wiped down, disinfected, and that hand sanitizer is readily available to clients and staff. Avoiding the exchange of cash can help in preventing the spread of the virus, but if this is unavoidable, be sure to wash and sanitize hands well after each transaction. The use of credit/debit transactions is preferred, using touch/swipe/no signature technology.

Administration: Employees who are sick will be expected to stay home. Salon/shop owners/managers should provide training, educational materials, and reinforcement on proper sanitation, hand washing, cough and sneeze etiquette, use of PPE, and other protective behaviors. Ensure break rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and not used for congregating by employees. Be flexible with work schedules/salon hours to reduce the number of people (employees and clients) in salons/shops at all times in order to maintain social distancing.

A full list of these guidelines will be made available on the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers’ website.

Kemp easing restrictions and opening some businesses

Featured, Featured Stories, News
open Kemp

ATLANTA, Ga – In a 4 p.m. press conference Gov. Brian Kemp outlined a plan to reopen the Georgia economy in accordance with Phase One of President Trump’s plan.

Starting on Friday, April 24, gyms, fitness centers, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, estheticians, their respective schools, bowling alleys, and massage therapists can open back up. However, they must follow social distancing guidelines and sanitation policies.

“Unlike other businesses, these entities have been unable to manage inventory, deal with payroll, and take care of administrative items while we shelter in place. This measure allows them to undertake baseline operations that most other businesses in the state have maintained since I issued the shelter-in-place order,” stated Kemp.

On Monday, April 27, restaurants can reopen their in-dining services as long as social distance and sanitation protocols are in place.

Entertainment businesses like event venues and bars are still closed until data supports reopening.

Social distancing is still in place across Georgia and the Shelter in Place order is in effect until April 30.

“Do what you can to help those in need. For places of worship, holding in-person services is allowed, but under Phase One guidelines, it must be done in accordance with strict social distancing protocols, Kemp added. “I urge faith leaders to continue to help us in this effort and keep their congregations safe by heeding the advice of public health officials. Of course, online, call-in, or drive-in services remain good options for religious institutions.”

The governor stressed businesses that are being allowed to open back up to practice good common sense or he will take necessary steps. He added that cases will probably continue to go up, but the state is better equipped to combat the virus with more hospital beds and contact tracing.

Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey added that the number of COVID-19 cases in Georgia has plateaued and now in decline. She said that they are following the gating data standards as set by Dr. Deborah Birx and the COVID-19 task force.

Bar graph from DPH demonstrating daily change in confirmed cases.

Toomey said that Georgia will meet the two-week decline in cases by the time the April 30 shelter in place order ends. According to her, the death rate in Georgia has dramatically fallen. Toomey said this is due to more widespread testing and identifying cases earlier.

It should be noted that last week Georgia still had multiple days of over 700 new cases added during the daily reports. The highest confirmed cases day was on April 6, 2020. The highest death day was also on April 6 with 40 deaths recorded by DPH.

However, it’s been previously reported that DPH and associated labs have a backlog of tests to process. These numbers are still subject to change. More testing facilities are opening across the state, including Gilmer and Towns.

Also, several people who are either asymptomatic or demonstrating only minor symptoms are being tested for COVID-19, so these numbers could be much larger. Please continue to follow social distancing for the time being.

Graph depicting daily number of COVID-19 deaths.

Telemedicine Option

From Kemp’s press conference:

“As many of you know, Augusta University Health launched a telemedicine app as part of their comprehensive plan to screen, test, and treat Georgia patients through an algorithm designed by experts at the Medical College of Georgia. This app has enhanced public health while reducing exposure for our doctors, nurses, and medical staff. We are encouraging symptomatic Georgians to download the app this week and begin the screening process. Georgians can access the app by visiting or downloading AU Health ExpressCare on your smartphone. You can also call (706) 721-1852. This free app is user-friendly, and through this app, physicians and advanced practice providers from Augusta University Health and the Medical College of Georgia are available to users twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If you begin to display symptoms consistent with COVID-19 – day or night – you can log onto AU Health’s telemedicine app or call to get screened by a clinician. If you meet criteria for testing, staff will contact you to schedule a test at one of the state’s designated testing locations near your home. Your healthcare information will be securely transmitted to your designated testing site.

“This streamlined process reduces stress on both the patient and testing site workers. Once you arrive for your appointment, you will provide a specimen for testing. From there, we will leverage the power of several key academic institutions in the state to process tests. These include Augusta University, Emory University, Georgia State University, and the Georgia Public Health Lab. In roughly seventy-two hours, you will be able to access your test results via a secure patient portal, and a medical provider will contact you directly if you are positive. The clinician will assist you with enrolling in a self-reporting app by Google named MTX where – with patient consent – the Department of Public Health can use enhanced contact monitoring and tracing.”

Here’s a link to Fetch Your News’ daily COVID-19 updates.

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Monday, April 20, 2020

Kemp asks Georgians to worship remotely on Easter

Press Release, State & National

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp urged Georgians to plan for online or call-in religious services, including Easter Sunday on April 12.

“I greatly appreciate faith leaders across our state who have made the tough decision to stop the spread of COVID-19 by suspending in-person religious services. Their leadership is literally saving lives,” said Governor Kemp. “To all Georgians celebrating Easter this Sunday, I am pleading with you to not attend any services in person. If you attend worship services in person, you risk exposure to coronavirus – potentially endangering your life, the lives of your neighbors, and your loved ones. I know this decision is difficult, but we will get through this together.”

For drive-in services, law enforcement have received reports that people are not staying in their vehicles. For example, people will leave their cars to let their children play, go to nearby restrooms, or otherwise congregate.

Dahlonega supports Gov. Kemp’s extension of shelter in place order


Mayor Sam Norton


DAHLONEGA, Ga., –– During his 4:00 p.m. press conference on April 8, Governor Brian Kemp announced he was extending Georgia’s state of emergency declaration through May 13, and extended his original statewide shelter-in-place order set to expire on April 13 through April 30. The public health state of emergency declaration helps ensure that the state is eligible for any emergency federal assistance and programs offered in response to the current COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

The Governor and state public health officials detailed the importance of adhering to the sheltering-in-place order to help prevent further spread of the Coronavirus as the next two weeks will be critical for Georgia. Total cases in Georgia have risen to 10,204 with more than 2,000 hospitalized and 370 deaths reported as of the April 8 daily report offered by the Georgia Department of Public Health. With additional testing centers opening, these numbers will continue to rise as more patients can be readily diagnosed. As of that same report date, Lumpkin County now has nine confirmed cases of COVID-19.

“We support Governor Kemp’s decision to extend the shelter-in-place order,” said Mayor Sam Norton. “These aren’t easy decisions, but they are necessary if we are going to save lives.”

Gov. Brian Kemp

Governor Kemp also announced a new executive order prohibiting residential vacation rentals. The order is in effect as of 12:00 a.m. on April 9 and ends at 11:59 p.m. on April 30, unless otherwise extended by executive order. It does not include vacation rentals fully paid for prior to the April 9 start date and time, nor does it apply to property leases where the location is used as the person’s primary place of residence.

This new mandate was offered by state officials in response to local government leaders from North Georgia as well as coastal Georgia who in recent days have formally objected to state parks and public beaches being open and accessible to the public during the public health crisis. Local elected officials from both regions of the state, noting visitors traveling from hotspot areas, recently sent letters to Governor Kemp urging action to curtail metro-area residents and visitors from other hotspot areas around the US. Leaders noted the limited resources typically available in more rural areas and healthcare systems that are unequipped to respond to an overrun of patients.

“I was pleased to see this new executive order,” said Norton. “That being said, the Council and I remain concerned about increased traffic at nearby state parks, but appreciate the Governor’s assurances that park rangers are closely monitoring attendance numbers.”

The state also announced more aggressive measures at all Georgia assisted living and nursing homes, following the recent outbreak and deaths at an Athens-area nursing facility. The mandates require more sanitary measures by workers, and prohibits all visitors and non-essential workers from entering the facilities except in end of life circumstances.

All executive orders are available on the Governor’s website here.

CDC’s “What to do if you are sick?” –

Northeast Georgia Health System COVID-19 information –


FEMA’s Coronavirus Rumor Control –

Georgia Department of Public Health –

District 2 Public Health Department –



Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at


Kemp suspends short-term vacation rentals, parks remain open

News, State & National
vacation rental

ATLANTA, Ga – After issuing an extended shelter in place, Gov. Brian Kemp finally instituted a ban on short-term vacation rentals to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, the governor stopped short of closing state parks and beaches despite numerous calls from local governments to do so.

“I have also heard the concerns of many hardworking Georgians, including local elected officials, who fear that our state will become a vacation destination. As a result, and in accordance with public health guidance, I have signed an order to suspend short-term vacation rentals across Georgia,” stated Kemp.

The short-term rental ban identifies vacation rentals as residential properties that can be leased for 30 days or less and can be let by a third-party broker. The licensor is a limited liability corporation, corporation, partnership, person, or any other entity; and the licensee is a private person.

It DOES NOT apply to hotels, motels, campgrounds, extended-stay hotels, commercial transactions, and leases that serve as a person’s primary residence.

Additionally, any rental paid in full by 12:00 a.m. on April 9, 2020, may keep their reservation.

The order won’t prevent people from occupying their personal property.

Law enforcement is authorized to enforce the order, but not to evict anyone in a vacation rental.

Beginning at 12:00 a.m. on April 9, the ban will expire on April 30 at 11:59 p.m.

When asked about the closing of the state parks and beaches, Kemp said only 300 people visited the beaches over the weekend and everyone practiced social distancing.

Earlier in the week, 12 North Georgia Commission Chairmen joined together to ask Kemp to close state parks and the Mayor of Tybee Island also issued a statement expressing his dissatisfaction with Kemp’s decision to open state beaches and park.

As of now, all his state parks reports indicated everyone was following CDC guidelines and he sees no reason to close the parks. Kemp did say he would revisit the issue if he discovers park visitors aren’t practicing social distancing.

Kemp also reasoned that when gyms and other exercise facilities close, people will want to go somewhere to receive physical activity.

Long-Term Care Update

Except from Kemp’s speech:

“The Georgia Department of Public Health has determined that COVID-19 is spreading through nursing homes, inpatient hospice, assisted living communities, personal care homes, intermediate care homes, community living arrangements, and community integration homes. We have dramatically increased access to resources to these facilities to mitigate exposure, but we have to do more to protect these Georgians.

“Earlier today, I signed an executive order extending Georgia’s public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020. This measure will allow us to deploy more resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our healthcare facilities. I appreciate Lt. Governor Duncan, Speaker Ralston, and the General Assembly for working with us to ensure resources are available to proactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This afternoon, I also signed an executive order mandating more aggressive infection control measures at long-term care facilities across Georgia. I’ll outline a few, key requirements. Facilities must adopt infectious disease transfer protocols with nearby hospitals. Visitors and non-essential personnel are strictly prohibited except in compassionate care situations. If feasible, these facilities must provide in-room dining services, and all group activities are canceled. Employees must wash or sanitize their hands after any interaction with a resident. Facilities must implement protocols to screen residents for fever and respiratory symptoms, and employees must be screened before starting a shift. If an employee is exposed, to the extent feasible, he or she must self-quarantine for fourteen days before returning to work. Facilities are required to implement universal and correct use of personal protective equipment, and we stand ready to coordinate delivery of supplies. Facilities must utilize hospital-grade disinfectants for frequent cleaning. If possible, residents with symptoms of respiratory infection need to be placed together, and facilities should have specific employees working only on affected units. To ensure compliance, I am empowering the Department of Public Health, National Guard, and Department of Community Health to issue directives to facilities to prevent, monitor, and treat COVID-19.

“Today, I am also signing an executive order to activate 1,000 additional National Guard members to assist in COVID-19 emergency response.

“In accordance with public health recommendations, I am also extending the statewide shelter in place order through April 30, 2020. All of the provisions of the statewide shelter in place order will remain in effect. I want to thank everyone who followed these directives, and I appreciate your patience.”

Posted by Governor Brian Kemp on Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Kemp, Duncan, Ralston announce plans to extend Public Health State of Emergency

Press Release, State & National
public health emergency

Atlanta, GA – Today Governor Brian P. Kemp, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan, and House Speaker David Ralston announced plans to extend Georgia’s public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Under state law, the Governor may renew the public health state of emergency, which was otherwise set to expire on April 13, 2020. Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston agree it is necessary for the public health emergency to be renewed and will not be requesting a special legislative session, which was tentatively scheduled for April 15, 2020.

“To ensure the health and well-being of Georgians, I will extend the public health state of emergency through May 13, 2020. This measure will allow us to continue to deploy resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our healthcare facilities. We deeply appreciate the hard work of Georgians who are sheltering in place, using social distancing, and helping us flatten the curve. We are in this fight together,” said Governor Kemp. “I appreciate Lt. Governor Duncan and Speaker Ralston continuing to work with us to ensure resources are available to proactively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I thank them for their support of an extended emergency declaration. In these unprecedented times, we ask Georgians for their continued patience and prayers, especially for first responders, law enforcement, and the healthcare workers caring for the medically fragile. They are going above and beyond to keep us all safe, and we will never be able to repay them for their sacrifices.”

“We must continue our aggressive fight against COVID-19,” said Lt. Governor Duncan. “By extending the public health state of emergency, we can ensure Georgians have access to every available state resource during this crisis. Together, Speaker Ralston and I are working closely with Governor Kemp to do all we can to make sure we are meeting the needs of every Georgian. The General Assembly will continue to remain vigilant and available to assist our citizens in any way possible.”

“The entirety of our state government is working to protect the health and safety of our citizens, and I appreciate the work of our state personnel and first responders during this challenging time,” said Speaker David Ralston. “While we have difficult days ahead, we continue to coordinate with both local and federal partners in responding to needs as they arise. As Georgians, we will persevere and emerge stronger on the other side.”

Kemp and DECAL issue statement concerning essential travel

Press Release, State & National

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp and Amy M. Jacobs, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), issued the following joint statement regarding measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while ensuring that our state’s essential workforce has access to licensed childcare.

“On Thursday, April 2, 2020, the Executive Order to Ensure a Safe & Healthy Georgia – commonly called the shelter-in-place order – was issued. The order became effective beginning Friday, April 3 at 6:00 PM and is set to expire Monday, April 13 at 11:59 PM. This order allows all licensed childcare facilities to remain open subject to certain restrictions, including social distancing and sanitation.

“We have received recent reports of law enforcement stopping people to ask for a letter authorizing their travel. The Executive Order to Ensure a Safe & Healthy Georgia does not require any worker to carry an authorization letter on Georgia’s roads. As a result, the order allows for any necessary travel by workers and families to and from a childcare facility during this public health emergency.

“Parents with children in private childcare represent Georgia’s hardworking families with jobs that are critical to supporting themselves and the larger community. Essential workers such as nurses, doctors, first responders, and state and municipal employees rely on childcare to allow them to perform the critical functions so desperately needed in a public health emergency. From the fireman to the stocker at the grocery store, without access to quality, licensed childcare, many of these workers would be forced to stay home, putting further stress on the system responding to this pandemic.

“Continuing to work closely with the Governor’s Office, Georgia Department of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DECAL is prepared to lead our state’s efforts in assisting our youngest children and their families through this unprecedented time. We will continue partnering with the childcare industry and advocates of early childhood education to creatively address the challenges we face now and the new challenges that will emerge going forward.

Counties request governor to close state parks in their counties


LUMPKIN COUNTY, Ga. – Chris Dockery is one of a dozen North Georgia county commission chairmen who signed a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp requesting that all state parks in their counties be closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The letter reads, “As County Commissioners in North Georgia, we are writing to request that you issue an Executive Order closing down all of the state parks located in our area for the duration of the Statewide Shelter in Place Order.”

Chris Dockery

Many of the counties they represent had already issued their own emergency orders but the Governor’s Shelter-in-Place Order issued April 2 supersedes those and prohibites them from enacting stricter laws. Dockery called that “very unfortunate” and added that he is concerned about increased traffic in the area.

The letter further states, “A significant portion of this increased traffic is coming from COVID-19 hot spots such as Atlanta or from areas outside our state. During normal times, we are very thankful for the many Georgians and other tourists who visit and explore our area and frequent our state parks. As public awareness of the COVID-19 pandemic has increased, there has been a recent surge in visitors to our area. It appears that these nonresidents believe our area is a safe haven because of its rural nature. To the contrary, the influx of people into our communities has had a staggering detrimental effect on our resources. Our communities simply do not have enough hospital beds or medical personnel to care for the inflated population. Similarly, there is not enough food, dry goods, fuel and other supplies to adequately provide for the numbers we are experiencing.

“Many County Commissioners in our area are actively discouraging any and all nonresidents from visiting our area until the pandemic has resolved itself. The United States Forest Service has taken steps to discourage the influx of people by closing down all of its “sited” campgrounds, but the continued operation of the state parks is stressing our community’s resources in a substantial manner.

“On behalf of the many citizens that live in North Georgia who entrust us as County Commissioners to represent their interests, we respectfully ask you to close all of the state parks located in our area immediately.”

The letter is signed by the county commission chairmen from Franklin, Habersham, Towns, Rabun, White, Gilmer, Dade, Lumpkin, Fannin, Stephens, Union and Banks counties.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that covers Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. FYN attracts 300,000+ page views per month, 3.5 million impressions per month and approximately 15,000 viewers per week on and up to 60,000 Facebook page reach. If you would like to follow up-to-date local events in any of those counties, please visit us at





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