Virus update 1

Five more cases of coronavirus in Barrow County were confirmed Friday, bringing the countywide total to 111, and 18 more deaths from COVID-19 were confirmed around Georgia as the statewide death toll reached 899.

As of 7 p.m. Friday, there were 22,491 confirmed cases in the state, according to the latest numbers from the Georgia Department of Public Health. That was over 300 more confirmed cases since the department's noon report. 

In Barrow County, there have been three reported deaths from COVID-19 — a 66-year-old male, a 91-year-old female and a 64-year-old male, all of whom had underlying medical conditions, according to the DPH. The statewide mortality rate is at 4 percent.

The state also reported an additional 168 hospitalizations Friday, bringing the total to 4,322 since the outbreak began (19.2 percent of known cases). 

More than 107,000 tests (more than 6,100 reported since Thursday night) have been conducted across the state — a number that is now steadily increasing daily as Georgia has boosted its testing capacity and relaxed its previous testing criteria. State officials acknowledge, though, that the state has lagged behind most of the rest of the country in testing per capita. 

Fulton County still has the most confirmed cases in the state with 2,500 and 91 deaths, followed by DeKalb County (1,721 cases, 36 deaths). Dougherty County has the most confirmed deaths (108) and 1,465 cases. Gwinnett County has 1,382 cases and 46 deaths, and Cobb County has 1,368 cases and 72 deaths.

Elsewhere around Barrow, Hall County has 1,022 cases and nine deaths; Clarke County has 127 cases and 13 deaths; Walton County has 92 cases and three deaths; Jackson County has 75 cases and one death; Oconee County has 54 cases and no deaths; Madison County has 21 cases and one death; and Banks County has 18 cases and no deaths. 

The next update from the DPH is scheduled for noon Saturday. 

Nationwide, there were over 890,000 confirmed cases and more than 51,000 deaths as of 7 p.m. Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine online tracker.

REOPENING

The latest numbers come as Georgia begins a partial "reopening" under orders from Gov. Brian Kemp.

Hair and other grooming salons, fitness centers, gyms, bowling alleys and other indoor recreational facilities were allowed to reopen Friday. And restaurants will be allowed to resume dine-in services and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen Monday — provided that they follow long lists of requirements and other guidelines. 

Some of the requirements at the businesses opening Friday include screening all employees for coronavirus symptoms, practicing strict sanitization procedures and limiting party sizes and capacity. 

The list of requirements and guidelines for restaurants to begin offering dine-in services is 39 items long. Among those:

•No more than 10 patrons per 500 square feet of public space are allowed inside.

•Restaurants must limit party size at tables to no more than six.

•Restaurants must screen and evaluate workers for fever, cough and shortness of breath and require workers who exhibit signs of illness not to report to work.

•Restaurants should implement staggered shifts for all possible workers, where possible.

•All employees are required to wear face coverings.

•Work stations should be staggered where possible.

•Restaurants must increase physical space between patrons and employees.

•Restaurants must discontinue salad bars and buffets.

•Restaurants must use rolled silverware and eliminate table presets.

•Restaurants must post signage on entrances that no one with a fever or COVID-19 symptoms is allowed to come in.

•"Where practicable," take-out and curbside service should be prioritized over dine-in.

•Restaurants must train employees on hygiene best practices.

•Patrons waiting to be seated must be separated.

•All playgrounds at restaurants must remain closed.

The same rules apply in the food service areas of movie theaters, and theaters must also limit seating parties to six and separate all parties by at least six feet while closing arcade rooms. At least one usher must be present in every theater room to enforce "social distancing" rules. 

A full list of requirements and guidelines can be found here

The statewide shelter-in-place order remains in effect through April 30, and the state's elderly and "medically fragile" residents are urged to shelter in place through May 13, the date the state's public health emergency declaration expires.

Kemp's decision to begin the reopening has sparked criticism from numerous public health experts and officials, mayors around the state and other political leaders from both major parties, including President Donald Trump. Trump directly criticized the governor's move at daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefings Wednesday and Thursday.

Kemp has continued to defend his decision, saying it is supported by data that show the worst of the virus has already hit Georgia and that the state is becoming more prepared to handle any future spikes in infections. 

There has been conflicted modeling over whether Georgia has reached its peak and is now seeing a decline, and the peak times could vary from region to region of the state. Northeast Georgia Health System officials have said that, based on their modeling, the worst may be still to come in northeast Georgia. 

THREE RELEASED FROM WINDER HOSPITAL

As of 7 a.m. Friday, there were 132 patients confirmed to have COVID-19 being treated across Northeast Georgia Health System's four hospitals and the New Horizons Limestone long-term care facility in Gainesville. Another 46 patients being treated were awaiting test results. 

The numbers include 10 positive patients at Northeast Georgia Medical Center Barrow in Winder — three less than the 13 reported Thursday. NGMC Barrow public relations manager Sunita Singh said three people had been discharged, either to go home or to a long-term care facility.

Elsewhere, there are 74 positive patients at NGMC Gainesville, 24 at NGMC Braselton, 19 at New Horizons Limestone and five at NGMC Lumpkin. 

The system is currently reporting 19 deaths at its facilities (two more since Thursday), but hasn't specified how many at each. 

The system is now updating its totals every weekday morning. Those updates can be found here

Anyone who believes they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or believes they may have been exposed to the virus is advised to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or any medical facility. Only people who have been evaluated by public health officials at their local health department or a health care provider and assigned a PUI number will be referred to the drive-thru specimen collection sites.

A statewide COVID-19 hotline is available at 844-442-2681.

Continue to check barrownewsjournal.com for the latest local and statewide updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

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