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State of emergency extended, but moves made to reopen bars, bring back sports
Brian Kemp
Gov. Brian Kemp

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Gov. Brian Kemp has decided to extend Georgia’s public health state of emergency through 11:59 p.m. July 12, he announced Thursday, describing the road ahead as a "slow and careful transition to a new normal."

It is his third extension of the state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shelter-in-place order for Georgians who are 65 or older or who are medically fragile will continue through June 12.

Beginning June 1, gatherings of up to 25 people will be allowed if they maintain six feet between each person. The current limit is 10 people.

Starting May 31, overnight summer camps are permitted if they follow 33 rules. On June 1, bars and nightclubs can reopen if they follow sanitation and social distancing rules. Bars and nightclubs will have 39 regulations to follow if they reopen. 

"Just to name a few, those include screening workers for illness, limiting the number of people in the building to 25 people or 35% of total occupancy, requiring the facility to be thoroughly and regularly sanitized, only serving drinks to seated patrons or those in designated areas, limiting party size to six people, and preventing patrons from congregating," Kemp said.

Kemp also reclassified banquet halls and other venues primarily used for weddings as restaurants so that they could begin reopening with restrictions. Kemp said amusement parks can open on June 12, while live performance venues remain shuttered. 

Starting June 1, professional sports teams can resume practice and operations if they follow the rules of their sports leagues. Amateur sports must follow the guidelines for critical infrastructure organizations the state has issued.

School districts can begin summer school in June if they follow 11 criteria, including screening workers and students, enhancing sanitation and keeping students separated. 

Kemp encouraged people to wear face masks in public to reduce the spread of the virus, wash their hands and keep their distance from others.

The continued easing of restrictions comes as new daily confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Georgia are ticking upward after weeks of decline.

Dr. Carlos Del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University School of Medicine, said the upward trend probably reflects in part new cases as a result of the state's push to reopen.

"The data tells me that I should probably continue sheltering in place, so I'm not ready to go to a restaurant yet," Del Rio said on a call with reporters.

A seven-day moving average of confirmed cases provided by the health department shows the number of new daily cases in Georgia declining between April 22 and May 11, then beginning to trend back upward. 

Despite that, Kemp said he doesn't see anything concerning in the data and blamed the upward swing on a large dump of test results by a lab that had been backlogged. "Our numbers continue to look good," Kemp said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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