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COVID-19 roundup: Georgia ‘open for business,’ slots open for shots, vaccine passports and more

Published: Apr. 8, 2021 at 11:26 AM EDT
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ATLANTA - Gov. Brian Kemp says “Georgia is open for business” as of Thursday.

He’s loosening COVID-19 restrictions, so that restaurant tables can be closer, more people can get together and vulnerable residents no longer have to stay home. Kemp’s announcement comes despite warnings from public health experts and President Joe Biden that it’s too soon for unmasked close contact among strangers.

Georgia’s newly recorded cases have been falling, but only 28 percent of its residents have received a dose of a vaccine.

Experts warn that despite some positive indicators, more infectious variants are spreading and could cause another wave of illness and deaths.

Kemp signed an executive order last week that will get rid of the ban on large gatherings and the shelter-in-place requirements.

There will also be less social distancing in places like restaurants, gyms and movie theaters.

The order also says law enforcement cannot force an organization to close if they don’t follow safety guidelines.

Kemp’s executive order lasts through the end of April.

Kemp won’t support vaccine passports

AUGUSTA, Ga. - There’s still a lot of concern about government requiring vaccine passports.

So far, that’s not happening.

The passports are being discussed, not just for travel but for everyday activities, too.

Not everyone is on board.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted he won’t support a state-mandated vaccine passport.

In California, a congressman is introducing a bill to ban the passports.

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis is prohibiting businesses in his state from requiring them, as well.

Henry M. Wu, a doctor with Emory University, says proof of vaccination isn’t really new.

Appointments available for University Hospital vaccine clinics

AUGUSTA, Ga. - University Hospital continues to have open spots for upcoming vaccination clinics.

The hospital system urges vaccination but also reminds local residents to remain vigilant with mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing.

Edgefield County educators have been getting shots

EDGEFIELD, S.C. - A large percentage of Edgefield County School District teachers and staff have received their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the district.

Upon learning that teachers in South Carolina were eligible for the vaccine, district officials scheduled a vaccine clinic at Johnston-Edgefield-Trenton Middle School. The vaccination clinic began on March 10. Second doses were given on March 31, five days before the start of spring break, April 2-9.

After spring break, the school district will return to school five days a week on Monday and remain in school five days a week due to a large percentage of staff being fully vaccinated. The district will continue to provide full remote learning for students/parents that prefer that option.

Possible staff shortages caused by quarantine should no longer be an obstacle preventing students from returning to school five days a week, the district said.

Georgia’s judicial emergency extended again

ATLANTA - Georgia Chief Justice Harold D. Melton on Thursday extended for another month the statewide judicial emergency he first declared more than a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday’s order, which will be in effect until May 8, is nearly identical to the previous order he signed last month extending the emergency, but with one key difference: This order gives notice that the statutory deadlines for when detained criminal defendants must have their cases heard by a grand jury are expected to be reinstated on May 14.

Reimposing these deadlines is meant to help clear out the backlog of unindicted criminal cases that has been growing throughout the year and protect defendants’ rights to have their cases move forward.

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