Primary Election postponed to June 9

ATLANTA — Today, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that, pursuant to the authority vested in him by O.C.G.A. § 21-2-50.1, he is postponing the Statewide General Primary/Presidential Preference Primary Election until June 9, 2020.
Yesterday, Governor Brian Kemp extended the current public health state of emergency until May 13, 2020. Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and Speaker of the House David Ralston concurred in the Governor’s extension of the state of emergency.
“Due to the Governor’s extension of the state of emergency through a time period that includes almost every day of in-person voting for an election on May 19, and after careful consideration, I am now comfortable exercising the authority vested in me by Georgia law to postpone the primary election until June 9,” said Secretary Raffensperger. “This decision allows our office and county election officials to continue to put in place contingency plans to ensure that voting can be safe and secure when in-person voting begins and prioritizes the health and safety of voters, county election officials, and poll workers.”
 
Throughout this crisis, the Secretary of State’s office has been in close contact with county election officials across the state. Over the past week, the reports of mounting difficulties from county election officials, particularly in Southwest Georgia, grew to a point where county election officials could not overcome the challenges brought on by COVID-19 in time for in-person voting to begin on April 27. Additionally, current modeling by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia will peak around April 24, only days before in-person voting was scheduled to begin. While challenges will certainly remain on June 9, these additional three weeks will give the Secretary of State’s office and counties time to shore up contingency plans, find and train additional poll workers, and procure supplies and equipment necessary to clean equipment and protect poll workers.
Emergency authority is something that should be exercised carefully, and moving an election should only take place in the rarest of circumstances. While Secretary Raffensperger previously expressed concern that he did not have the authority to move the primary election again, the Governor’s extension of the state of emergency to a time that includes almost every day of in-person voting for a May 19 election is sufficient to allow the Secretary to exercise the emergency authority given to him by O.C.G.A. § 21-2-50.1 and move the primary election to June 9.
“I certainly realize that every difficulty will not be completely solved by the time in-person voting begins for the June 9 election, but elections must happen even in less than ideal circumstances,” said Raffensperger. “Just like our brave healthcare workers and first responders, our county election officials and poll workers are undertaking work critical to our democracy, and they will continue to do this critical work with all the challenges that the current crisis has brought forth. This postponement allows us to provide additional protection and safety resources to county election officials, poll workers, and voters without affecting the November election.”
The voter registration deadline for the June 9, 2020 election will be May 11, 2020. Early voting will begin on May 18, 2020. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 21-2-501, moving the primary election to June 9, 2020 will move the primary runoff to August 11, 2020. Pushing back the primary to June 9 gives Georgia election officials additional time to put in place contingency plans to allow for safe and secure voting, but pushing back the primary election any further could potentially have negative consequences on preparation for the November 3, 2020 General Election. Given existing deadlines to prepare and send ballots for the November election, particularly for military voters, moving forward on June 9 is the best way to ensure a successful election year in Georgia.
Absentee ballot applications for the upcoming primary election will continue to be accepted and processed by counties even if the application said May 19. Once county election officials properly verify the signature on the application, the voter will be sent an absentee ballot for the primary election now to be held on June 9.

Courthouses remain open

On April 6, 2020, Chief Justice Harold Melton of the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an order extending the declaration of statewide judicial emergency until May 13, 2020. The Whitfield County Courthouse and the Murray County Courthouse will remain open during this time, in accordance with Georgia law. The Superior Court will continue to be open for essential functions in compliance with Justice Melton’s order. Civil and domestic calendars are resuming and will be done via teleconference pursuant to the COVID 19 Procedures on the Court’s website. The Court will continue to hear only those criminal matters involving defendants currently incarcerated. Those matters will also be heard by videoconference. Any questions should be directed to the Office of the Superior Court Administrator at 706-278-5897.

Everything you want to know about Gov. Kemp’s shelter in place order

By Dave Williams
Bureau Chief
Capitol Beat News Service
Gov. Brian Kemp has issued a statewide shelter-in-place order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. Here are some frequently asked questions surrounding the order and answers supplied by the governor’s office:
How long does the executive order last?
The shelter-in-place order takes effect at 6 p.m. Friday and expires at 11:59 p.m. April 13
What businesses and professionals must cease in-person operations and close to the public during this time?
Bars
Nightclubs
Gyms
Fitness centers
Bowling alleys
Theaters
Live performance venues
Dine-in services at restaurants and private social clubs (Exceptions include take-out, curbside pickup and delivery, as well as dine-in services at hospitals, health-care facilities, nursing homes or other long-term care facilities)
Estheticians (ex. waxing, threading, eyelash extensions, cosmetic treatments)
Hair designers
Tattoo parlors
Beauty shops and salons (including home shops)
Barber shops (including home)
Cosmetology schools
Hair design schools
Barbering schools
Esthetics schools
Nail care schools
Licensed massage therapists
How does the order apply to individuals and families?
All Georgia residents and visitors are required to shelter in place in their residences. “Shelter in place” means remaining in their residences and taking every possible precaution to limit social interaction to prevent the spread or infection of COVID-19.
Are there exceptions?
Yes. A Georgia resident or visitor is not required to shelter in place if they are:
 
Engaging in essential services.
Working in critical infrastructure.
Engaging in minimum basic operations.
Performing necessary travel.
What are essential services and critical infrastructure workers?
As defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to critical infrastructure viability, including staffing operations centers, maintaining and repairing critical infrastructure, operating call centers, working construction, and performing operating functions, among others. It also includes workers who support critical supply chains and enable functions for critical infrastructure. The industries they support represent but are not limited to medical and health care, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement and public works.
Engaging in essential services means obtaining necessary supplies and services for your household, engaging in activities essential for the health and safety of your household, and engaging in outdoor exercise activities as long as you have at least six feet between people who do not live in your household.
You can go to the grocery store, medical appointments and the pharmacy. You can go pick up food or have food delivered to your house. You can leave your house to buy supplies to clean or maintain your house. You can go outside to exercise. You can also leave your house in an emergency.
The key takeaway is that you need to stay in your house as much as possible, but we recognize there are circumstances when you need to leave. Keep those circumstances rare, consolidate trips as much as possible and use take-out, curbside pickup and delivery service whenever possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Necessary travel means the travel required for someone to conduct or participate in essential services, minimum basic operations or work for critical infrastructure.
Minimum basic operations are limited to:
The minimum activities necessary to maintain the value of a business … provide services, manage inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions. Such minimum necessary activities include remaining open to the public subject to the restrictions of this order.
The minimum activities necessary to facilitate employees or volunteers being able to work remotely from their residences.
Instances where employees are working outdoors without regular contact with other persons, such as delivery services, contractors, landscape businesses and agricultural industry services.
What does this order mean for church services and funeral services?
No business, establishment, for-profit or nonprofit corporation, organization or county or municipal government is allowed to have more than 10 people gathering in a single location unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. This rule applies to church services and funeral services.
Can I go to state parks or play sports outside like golf?
Yes. You can visit state parks or play sports outside, including golf, subject to restrictions. Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. If people congregate in certain areas of a state park or golf course, for example, law enforcement will warn them to disband. If they fail to comply, they may face criminal charges.
What happens if I violate the governor’s executive order?
If you violate any terms of the order, you are committing a misdemeanor, which is a crime in the state of Georgia. For example, if you are not sheltering in place and none of the four exceptions for essential services, minimum basic operations, critical infrastructure or necessary travel applies to your activities, you will receive a warning from law enforcement and risk facing criminal charges if you fail to comply.
How does this order apply to local governments?
No county or municipal to government is allowed to have more than 10 people gathered in a single location unless there is at least six feet between each person at all times. The governor’s order supersedes all local ordinances to the extent they conflict and states that no ordinance can be more restrictive or less restrictive.

Georgia shelter-in-place starts 6 p.m. today

By Beau Evans
Staff Writer
Capitol Beat News Service
 
Amid the push to curb coronavirus, a statewide shelter-in-place order that will shutter in-person patronizing of bars, gyms, restaurants, theaters and many other activities is set to begin at 6 p.m. today and last through April 13.
Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order Thursday evening that exempts a range of activities deemed “essential services” like food and medical supply pick-ups and deliveries, critical infrastructure and those that help maintain minimum business operations.
Many types of businesses deemed essential will remain open but under tightened rules to keep work areas clean and for people to keep six feet of distance at minimum between each other, as well as a maximum of 10 people per any given space.
Restaurants will have to close in-person dining areas, but food pick-ups and deliveries will be allowed. People in Georgia will also be able to travel to grocery stores, medical appointments and pharmacies, according to the governor’s office.
“Preference should be given to online ordering, home delivery and curbside pick-up services wherever possible as opposed to in-store shopping,” the order says.
Exercising is allowed outside so long as people keep their distance from each other, the order says.
Critical infrastructure, per federal guidelines, includes health-care sectors, law enforcement and first-responder agencies, food and agriculture industries, energy companies, water and sewer utilities, trucking, public transit, information technology and more.
The order also requires rules at businesses that remain open, including health screenings, hand washing, staggered shifts and teleworking where possible.
Gov. Brian Kemp announced Wednesday he would sign the order following changes to federal modeling and guidelines earlier this week that account for the fact that the respiratory virus can spread from infected persons who do not show symptoms.
As of noon Thursday, more than 5,400 Georgians had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel strain of coronavirus that has sparked a global pandemic. It had killed 176 patients from Georgia.
Kemp also signed an executive order Wednesday to close in-person classes for all Georgia public schools for the rest of the current school year. Thousands of schools across the state are poised to lean on online instruction to finish the spring term.
Per the order, enforcing the shelter-in-place will be left to Georgia State Patrol officers and any state agency members deputized by the governor or the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency.
Those officials, along with state Department of Public Health officers, will have authority to close any business or organization not complying with the order. Individual violators will be charged with a misdemeanor.
At a news conference Wednesday, Kemp called revised guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on asymptomatic spreading of coronavirus as “a game changer.”
“We are taking action to protect our hospitals, to help our medical providers and prepare for the patient surge that we know is coming,” Kemp said Wednesday. “Now is the time to fight and continue to be strong and courageous.”
The governor’s shelter-in-place order follows mounting pressure from health experts and politicians from both parties who have called for a statewide approach. Up to this point, Kemp has largely deferred to city and county authorities to decide whether to issue stay-at-home orders for their areas.
Kemp drew criticism Thursday from local officials and political opponents who blasted his reliance on this week’s new federal guidelines, arguing the governor and state health officials should have known much sooner about the ability of the virus to spread without symptoms.
Officials with the governor’s office stressed Kemp’s decision was also based heavily on the worsening strain hospitals are facing with shortages in protective gear and life-saving equipment, as well as new projections for patient capacity at Georgia hospitals to peak later this month.
In a news release Thursday, the state Department of Public Health pointed to information from CDC Robert Redfield that as many as 25 percent of people infected with coronavirus do not show symptoms and can be infectious up to 48 hours before symptoms appear. Redfield provided that information on Monday, the state public health agency noted.
The best way to halt the spreading virus and ease the burden for hospitals is for everyone to keep their distance from each other and practice good sanitary habits, said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state public health commissioner.
“Until now, containing the spread of COVID-19 has been based on early detection and isolation of people with symptoms of the virus,” Toomey said in a statement Thursday. “Social distancing and keeping people apart from each other are now more than just recommendations; they are the best weapons we have to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

Loans protect worker pay

WASHINGTON – Following President Trump’s signing of the historic Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin today announced that the SBA and Treasury Department have initiated a robust mobilization effort of banks and other lending institutions to provide small businesses with the capital they need.

The CARES Act establishes a new $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program. The Program will provide much-needed relief to millions of small businesses so they can sustain their businesses and keep their workers employed.
“This unprecedented public-private partnership is going to assist small businesses with accessing capital quickly. Our goal is to position lenders as the single point-of-contact for small businesses – the application, loan processing, and disbursement of funds will all be administered at the community level,” said Administrator Carranza. “Speed is the operative word; applications for the emergency capital can begin as early as this week, with lenders using their own systems and processes to make these loans. We remain committed to supporting our nation’s more than 30 million small businesses and their employees, so that they can continue to be the fuel for our nation’s economic engine.”

“This legislation provides small business job retention loans to provide eight weeks of payroll and certain overhead to keep workers employed,” said Secretary Mnuchin. “Treasury and the Small Business Administration expect to have this program up and running by April 3rd so that businesses can go to a participating SBA 7(a) lender, bank, or credit union, apply for a loan, and be approved on the same day.  The loans will be forgiven as long as the funds are used to keep employees on the payroll and for certain other expenses.”

The new loan program will help small businesses with their payroll and other business operating expenses. It will provide critical capital to businesses without collateral requirements, personal guarantees, or SBA fees – all with a 100% guarantee from SBA. All loan payments will be deferred for six months. Most importantly, the SBA will forgive the portion of the loan proceeds that are used to cover the first eight weeks of payroll costs, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest.

The Paycheck Protection Program is specifically designed to help small businesses keep their workforce employed. Visit SBA.gov/Coronavirus for more information on the Paycheck Protection Program.

*       The new loan program will be available retroactive from Feb. 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees through June 30, 2020.

Loan Terms & Conditions

  • Eligible businesses: All businesses, including non-profits, Veterans organizations, Tribal concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors, with 500 or fewer employees, or no greater than the number of employees set by the SBA as the size standard for certain industries
  • Maximum loan amount up to $10 million
  • Loan forgiveness if proceeds used for payroll costs and other designated business operating expenses in the 8 weeks following the date of loan origination (due to likely high subscription, it is anticipated that not more than 25% of the forgiven amount may be for non-payroll costs)
  • All loans under this program will have the following identical features:
    • Interest rate of 0.5%
    • Maturity of 2 years
    • First payment deferred for six months
    • 100% guarantee by SBA
    • No collateral
    • No personal guarantees
    • No borrower or lender fees payable to SBA

SBA’s announcement comes on the heels of a series of steps taken by the Agency since the President’s Emergency Declaration to expeditiously provide capital to financially distressed businesses affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Since March 17, SBA has taken the following steps:

Coronavirus hotline available

Residents of Murray County can now use a free hotline provided by AdventHealth to ask questions about coronavirus (COVID-19) and speak with a nurse as appropriate.

The AdventHealth Coronavirus Information Line, 877-VIRUSHQ, (877-847-8747) is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It serves as a one-stop-shop to connect people with resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and their state’s Department of Health.

While the phone line is not intended to replace a physician-patient relationship, nurses can answer general medical questions and will refer the caller to the appropriate next steps, such as connecting them to a nurse, AdventHealth eCare or other health care provider.

AdventHealth is hopeful this service will also offload non-clinical call volumes from health care offices, helping providers in the community by freeing up their staff to focus on those who need the most immediate, critical care.

The initial launch of the AdventHealth Coronavirus Information Line was piloted in Florida and has now expanded to serve consumers across the health system’s nationwide footprint.

“It is important that our community is educated and prepared to help mitigate the spread of this virus,” said Brendan Nieto, administrator of AdventHealth Murray. “We want to provide an easily accessible resource to our community by answering common questions and easing any fear or confusion people may be experiencing.”

AdventHealth has also launched an informational resource site, https://www.adventhealth.com/coronavirus-resource-hub, where consumers can get answers to top coronavirus (COVID-19) questions, such as:

*Am I at risk?

* What should I know if I am pregnant?

* How can I protect myself from this and other viruses, like the flu?

Georgia declared federal disaster area because of coronavirus  

By Dave Williams
Bureau Chief
Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – President Donald Trump has declared Georgia a major disaster area due to the impacts of coronavirus, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Sunday.
“Georgia is grateful for this designation, as it will enable the state to continue partnering with federal agencies in a coordinated fight against this pandemic,” Kemp said. “The presidential declaration is a critical step in providing additional assistance to our state and local governments as they continue to respond to COVID-19.”
The disaster declaration came as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 2,651. Eighty Georgians had died of the virus as of noon Sunday.
Kemp declared a statewide public health emergency on March 14, and the General Assembly ratified the action two days later during a one-day special session. The governor’s declaration made available state resources to help deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
The federal disaster declaration will allow federal agencies to provide direct assistance to Georgia. The record $2 trillion economic stimulus package Congress passed on Friday includes $150 billion in direct aid to state and local governments, money that can be used to help offset the impact the loss of businesses and jobs will have on state budgets.
COVID-19 now has spread to 113 counties. Fulton County has the most with 407 confirmed cases, followed by DeKalb County with 272 cases, Dougherty County with 239, Cobb County with 222, Gwinnett County with 143 cases and Bartow County with 119 cases.
However, the most deaths have occurred in hard-hit Dougherty County, where 17 have died from coronavirus. Fulton County has had 12 deaths, followed by Cobb County with nine.

Murray has 3 confirmed cases of coronavirus

Murray County now has three confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the state Department of Public Health.
Neighboring Murray County has eight cases.
Statewide, more than 2,600 cases have been confirmed in the stature. Eighty deaths have been linked, though not necessarily caused, by the virus.