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The stay-at-home order for Georgia will largely expire at midnight on Thursday, but Gov. Brian Kemp is still urging residents -- particularly the elderly -- to shelter in place in an attempt to protect themselves from the spread of coronavirus.
Kemp allowed restaurants, movie theaters, churches, gyms, tattoo parlors and beauty salons to reopen with restrictions starting last week Friday, but the decision drew backlash from local politicians and business owners as the state's death toll climbed over 1,000 this past week following the leap towards normalcy.
Still, the governor insists that the state has successfully flattened the curve and stressed his desire to get businesses reopened to reignite the struggling economy.
"I believe it’s vital that we empower business owners and workers to restart our economy, while following detailed and strict hygienic guidelines to keep employees and customers safe," Kemp said in a statement.
The Georgia Department of Labor announced last week that 1.1 million workers — about one-fifth of the state's workforce — filed for unemployment in the five weeks since the crisis started.
Despite the gradual reopening, Kemp formally extended the public health state of emergency through June 12 and urged people to stay at home as much as possible.
"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," Kemp said. "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."
Georgia was the first state to reopen any nonessential businesses and the decision drew backlash from both local politicians, President Trump, and health officials, who warned that reopening the state too soon could lead to a possible surge in new coronavirus cases.
Despite ranking at the bottom 10 states for testing per capita, Kemp said health officials have continued to work towards increasing testing capacities and working on contact tracing to help contain a potential spike in cases.