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Gov. Brian Kemp declares Georgia public health emergency effective March 14
Georgia's state Capitol in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press

Update, April 8: The public health emergency has been extended through May 13.

Update, March 14: The latest on Gov. Brian Kemp's declaration of a statewide public health emergency.

Previous story: Gov. Brian Kemp is declaring a statewide public health emergency effective Saturday, March 14.

The declaration gives the governor wide latitude to enforce or bypass state laws, seize or commandeer property, compel quarantines and evacuations and other actions to cope with the pandemic.

Following President Trump’s national emergency declaration, Kemp issued the following statement:

“Based on President Trump's emergency declaration, I will declare a public health emergency for the State of Georgia tomorrow morning. This declaration will greatly assist health and emergency management officials across Georgia by deploying all available resources for the mitigation and treatment of COVID-19."

Kemp called for a special session Monday, March 16, of the General Assembly, which just on Thursday was suspended in light of the pandemic, to ratify the emergency declaration by joint resolution.

Kemp also called on churches and "similar entities" to cancel public events and services and urged elderly residents and those with otherwise compromised immune systems or health problems to follow recommendations for preventing transmission of the disease.

"Continue to support one another, be mindful of potential exposure, use best practices to prevent infection, and pray for your fellow Americans in the weeks ahead," Kemp said in the statement.

Officials said it appears that the declaration will constitute Georgia's first ever public health emergency.