LISTEN LIVE:

President Trump leads a briefing of the coronavirus task force at the White House.

Coronavirus:

What You Need To Know

On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

clear-day
58°
Sunny
H 62° L 40°
  • clear-day
    58°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 62° L 40°
  • clear-day
    62°
    Today
    Sunny. H 62° L 40°
  • clear-day
    71°
    Tomorrow
    Sunny. H 71° L 51°
Listen
Pause
Error

News on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

Weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

Breaking News

    Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional details. The Georgia Department of Labor said Thursday it processed 390,132 claims for unemployment benefits last week – handling more claims in seven days than during all of last year. The staggering number confirms the extent of the sweeping, coronavirus-linked shutdowns across a wide swath of the state’s economy, but the pain was deepest in the hospitality and food services industries. Georgia’s report echoed the numbers nationally: 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. The previous week saw more than 6.8 million.  “This is an unprecedented economic catastrophe,” said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, during a conference call with reporters Thursday. “More than one in ten American employees has applied for unemployment during the past three weeks.” A week ago Georgia’s labor department reported processing 133,820 applications for jobless benefits - already roughly three times higher than the biggest weekly tally during the last economic downturn. At the peak of job losses after the Great Recession a decade ago, after several years of layoffs, nearly 500,000 Georgians were unemployed. But in just the past three weeks, 536,092 jobless Georgians have been processed. That figure does not include many people who have been unable to file claims because of overloaded computer systems or people who have simply not tried yet. It does not include workers who have no internet connection and were unable to reach state labor department workers on the agency’s often swamped phone lines. That figure also does not include most gig and contract workers or people who are self-employed, even though the $2.2 trillion relief package passed by Congress in late March and signed by President Donald Trump extended jobless coverage to those workers. That’s because state agencies have not yet been able to process claims for such workers. After getting guidelines from the federal government and scrambling to rewrite software, Georgia’s labor department now says it will be ready to take those applications next week. That change holds hope for Derek Kirkman, 50, of Alpharetta. Kirkman, a freelancer working in advertising, was days from a new contract when the company canceled all freelancers. “If you can't sell a product there's no need to advertise for it.” His situation could be a lot worse, he said. His wife is still employed, and there’s the chance that he might still see some cash from work he’s already done. “I have invoices outstanding from agencies,” Kirkman said. “Hopefully, they're able to pay because they're getting hit hard too, I suspect.” That ripple effect is a worry, economists say: People who aren’t getting paid, have trouble paying their own bills. For example, the number of metro Atlanta renters who paid their rent this month dropped by 9.4%, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council and RealPage. When restaurants close, their suppliers suffer. When conferences are canceled, caterers lose. When planes don’t fly, maintenance crews don’t work. And those effects are happening quickly, since this downturn was faster and deeper than any since the 1930s.  But reversing the spiral might be easier than during economic downturns of the past.  After a decade of relatively steady growth, the economy had started the year strong. The economic plunge was mostly intentional, the result of authorities trying to limit the spread of the coronavirus.  Some economists compare it to an induced coma, the patient still healthy but kept unconscious while being treated.   Georgia officials also say jobless benefits next week will include the $600-per-person weekly supplement that is part of the federal government’s emergency package. Payments are retroactive to last week’s benefits, according to a state labor department spokeswoman, and will continue through July. They are in addition to Georgia’s benefits, which average 43% of a jobless worker’s income and are capped at $365 a week. In the meantime, the economic carnage continues. Among layoff notices filed with the state’s labor department in the past several days: -- Candler Road Dental of Marietta, 175 jobs. -- Benevis Dental Practice Management Services of Marietta, 158 jobs. -- Uncle Julios restaurants of Atlanta, 73 jobs. -- Larson-Juhl of Norcross, 71 jobs. -- Direct Auction Services of Fairburn, 58 jobs.     Jobless claims in Georgia Week ending February 22: 5,030 February 29: 5,538 March 7: 4,569 March 14: 5,445 March 21: 12,140 March 28: 133,820 April 4: 390,132 Source: Georgia Department of Labor   Jobless claims in the United States Week ending  March 21: 3.3 million March 28: 6.9 million April 4: 6.6 million Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics  
  • UPDATE [7 p.m.]: Georgia’s coronavirus death toll has risen by 33 since noon, bringing the state’s total number of victims to 412, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The DPH also recorded 319 additional cases of COVID-19, increasing the number of cases since the coronavirus pandemic entered Georgia to 10,885. Of those, 2,298 patients have been hospitalized at some point, which is 21.1% of all cases. Of the 77 counties to report at least one death from COVID-19, Dougherty remained the hardest hit with 66, followed by Fulton with 48 and Cobb with 32. Dougherty and Sumter tied for the most new deaths since noon with four, followed by Fulton, Cobb and Bartow with three each. Georgia has conducted more than 41,000 tests, and about 26.5% of those have returned positive results. At least 68.2% of those who have died had a preexisting condition, but the DPH did not know that information for about 28.2% of the victims. Only 15 were confirmed to not have another condition that could have contributed to their death aside from COVID-19. The youngest victim in Georgia was a 27-year-old Lee County woman, while the oldest was a 100-year-old woman from Greene County. The DPH also recently began to release compiled data of the race and ethnicity of patients, but more than 60% of patients had their race listed as unknown.  About 21.3% of patients were black, 15.9% were white and 0.7% were Asian, according to the latest data. About 2.8% of patients were listed as having Hispanic or Latino ethnicity.  The DPH does not release the race or ethnicity of those who died from the virus. Only four counties — Evans, Glascock, Montgomery and Taliaferro — have not recorded their first case. The remaining 155 counties in Georgia have at least one, with Fulton topping the list with 1,336 confirmed cases. Fulton also recorded the most new cases since noon with 60, followed by DeKalb and Cobb each with 24.  As of 7 p.m. Thursday, there were 766 cases in DeKalb, 653 in Cobb, 618 in Gwinnett, 298 in Clayton, 247 in Hall, 233 in Henry, 203 in Bartow, 167 in Cherokee, 134 in Douglas, 109 in Forsyth, 93 in Fayette, 85 in Rockdale, 70 in Newton and 69 in Paulding. Patients between the ages of 18 and 59 make up the majority of cases at 60%, while those 60 and older make up 35% of cases. The DPH does not release compiled data on how many patients have recovered. For the full update, click here. — Please return to AJC.com for updates. ORIGINAL STORY [noon]: Georgia has confirmed more than 350 cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s number of infections to 10,566 Thursday. The latest figures from the Department of Public Health are an increase of about 3% from the 10,204 verified cases reported late Wednesday. Health officials also reported nine more deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus.  A total of 379 Georgians have died of COVID-19 since the outbreak began, and 2,159 have been hospitalized across the state. » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia As the state recorded its 10,000th case Wednesday, Gov. Brian Kemp imposed new restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. He extended a public health emergency through May 13 and the statewide stay-at-home order through the end of April. Both provisions were initially set to expire next Monday. » RELATED: Kemp extends shelter-in-place order in Georgia through April » PHOTOS: Metro Atlanta adjusts to coronavirus shifts in daily life The governor on Wednesday also instituted new restrictions on senior care facilities, which have been hit especially hard by the virus. Cases of the disease have been reported in at least 58 senior care facilities around the state, and at least 81 residents of those facilities have died. Of the COVID-19 deaths confirmed by the public health officials, the overwhelming majority are seniors over the age of 60. More than 60% of the total 379 who have died had underlying health conditions. » AJC IN-DEPTH: As dozens die in senior care homes, Kemp extends statewide lockdown While Kemp acknowledged the coronavirus was “hitting our state hard,” he also said he was encouraged by Georgians’ efforts to stay home and maintain social distancing. The measures may be starting to have an effect on new infections, the governor said at a news conference Wednesday. “I don’t want Georgians to take their foot off the gas,” he said.  Nearly every county in Georgia has been impacted by the virus. Only four — Evans, Glascock, Montgomery and Taliaferro — have not confirmed a single case. Elsewhere, numbers have surged. Metro Atlanta and Albany in southwest Georgia remain the state’s hardest-hit areas, with more than 1,000 cases and 62 deaths reported in Albany’s Dougherty County alone.  In metro Atlanta, there are 1,276 cases of the virus in Fulton County, 742 in DeKalb, 629 in Cobb, 603 in Gwinnett, 297 in Clayton, 238 in Hall, 225 in Henry, 196 in Bartow, 183 in Carroll, 159 in Cherokee, 127 in Douglas, 85 in Rockdale, 67 in Newton and 65 in Paulding. As of Thursday, Union County is the 71st county in the state with a death related to the virus. Additional deaths were reported Thursday in Fulton, Clayton, Mitchell, Floyd, Randolph, Fayette, Richmond and Ware counties.  » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia » MORE: Map tracks coronavirus globally in real time Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates. In other news: 
  • Two workers at the Tyson Foods chicken plant in Camilla recently died after contracting COVID-19, according to their union. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) announced the deaths in a post criticizing the poultry industry’s “delayed COVID-19 response.”  The union said the two workers died from the virus and “many are sick or in quarantine.” RWDSU represents 2,000 members at the Mitchell County-based factory. “What’s happening in Camilla, Georgia, is a clear example of how not to do things,” Edgar Fields, President of the Southeast Council of the RWDSU, said in the post. “It’s too little, too late here, and I hope sharing our story will help stop other communities from being exploited by corporate America.” RELATED: Georgia beer plant employee reportedly tests positive for COVID-19 The post also claimed workers are working “elbow to elbow with no access to masks.” Camilla, located in Mitchell County, is about 30 miles south of Albany, which has been one of the hardest hit epicenters for the coronavirus in Georgia.  Albany is the county seat of Dougherty County, which is second in the state with 1,001 cases and leads Georgia with 62 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the latest Georgia Department of Public Health numbers. Mitchell County also has a dozen deaths and more than 100 cases. MORE: Georgia tops 10K coronavirus cases as deaths increase to 370 Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman provided a statement to AJC.com that said, in part: “We continue working diligently to protect our team members at Camilla and elsewhere against what many industries around the world have learned is a challenging and ever-changing situation ... We’ve been in frequent contact with the RWDSU and the UFCW (United Food and Commercial Workers union) about the measures we’ve taken to protect our team members.” The statement said workers’ temperatures are being taken before they enter Tyson facilities and that they have access to protective face covering, refuting the union’s claim. RELATED: Yamaha Motor’s 1,500 Newnan workers idled by coronavirus ripple effects Worth also denied that Tyson was slow to react to the coronavirus, citing a COVID-19 task force that was created in January and the isolation of at-risk employees. Worth said Tyson has “also stepped up deep cleaning” in plants and “implemented social distancing measures, such as installing dividers between workstations and increasing the space between workers on the production floor by slowing production lines.” By the end of February, Worth said Tyson was also limiting business travel and encouraging sick employees to stay home by “relaxing attendance policies.” He said Tyson could not comment on the two employee deaths or the health of other employees due to “privacy reasons.” In other news:
  • [8:30 p.m.]: The Georgia Department of Public Health tweaked its coronavirus numbers at 8:30 p.m., adding one more death and an additional 15 cases. Georgia’s death toll is now 370, and the state has had 10,204 cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of total hospitalizations remained the same. The DPH also removed the totals for two Alabama counties and a South Carolina county that were added at 7 p.m. in error. UPDATE [7 p.m.]: Hours after Gov. Brian Kemp extended the statewide shelter-in-place order through the end of April, Georgia’s confirmed coronavirus cases crossed the 10,000 mark, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Since noon, the DPH recorded an additional 288 cases and seven deaths, bringing the state’s death toll to 369. The state has amassed 10,189 cases of COVID-19. Of those, 2,082 patients have been hospitalized at some point, which is about 20.4% of all cases. Of the 73 counties to report at least one death from COVID-19, Dougherty remained the hardest hit with 62 deaths, followed by Fulton with 42 and Cobb with 29. However, Gwinnett reported the most new deaths since noon with three. Georgia has conducted nearly 38,800 tests, and about 26.3% of those have returned positive results.  At least 58.8% of those who died had a preexisting condition, but the DPH did not know that information for about 37.7% of the victims. Only 13 victims were confirmed to not have another condition that could have contributed to their death aside from COVID-19. The youngest victim in Georgia was a 29-year-old Peach County woman, while the oldest was a 100-year-old woman from Greene County. Only four counties — Evans, Glascock, Montgomery and Taliaferro — have not recorded their first case. The remaining 155 counties in Georgia have at least one, with Fulton topping the list with 1,269 confirmed cases. A dozen cases were reported by the DPH in Edgefield, Russell and Tallapoosa counties, but those aren’t in Georgia. Edgefield is in South Carolina, while the other two are in Alabama. AJC.com has reached out to the DPH to see if this is an error and if that changes the total number of cases in Georgia. Muscogee County recorded the most new cases since noon with 37, followed by DeKalb and Fulton with 29 each. As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, there were 735 cases in DeKalb County, 601 in Cobb, 589 in Gwinnett, 296 in Clayton, 234 in Hall, 217 in Henry, 195 in Bartow, 157 in Cherokee, 124 in Douglas, 101 in Forsyth, 86 in Rockdale, 85 in Fayette and 67 in both Newton and Paulding. Patients between the ages of 18 and 59 make up the majority of cases at 60%, while those 60 and older make up 35% of cases. The DPH does not release compiled data on how many patients have recovered. For the full update, click here. ORIGINAL STORY [noon]: Known coronavirus cases in Georgia are nearing 10,000 as nearly every county in the state has verified infections, according to the latest data released Wednesday. The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed 9,901 cases as of noon, up more than 700 cases from the night before. The state has also reported 14 more deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus, bringing the toll to 362. Since the outbreak began, 1,993 who have tested positive for COVID-19 have been hospitalized across the state. » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia The latest rise in infections comes as Gov. Brian Kemp announced plans Wednesday to extend Georgia’s public health emergency through May 13. The new executive order would give the governor more time to use special powers and impose restrictions to contain the virus’ rapid spread. » RELATED: Kemp extends emergency powers to mid-May to combat coronavirus » PHOTOS: Metro Atlanta adjusts to coronavirus shifts in daily life Kemp’s original emergency declaration was set to expire next week. Under the public health emergency, Kemp has enacted a statewide stay-at-home order through April 13 that restricts all but essential activities, and he has ordered the closure of all public schools through the end of the academic year. No further restrictions or extensions were immediately announced Wednesday. As of Wednesday, all but four of Georgia’s 159 counties had verified cases of the coronavirus. Evans, Glascock, Montgomery and Taliaferro counties remain untouched, while the virus’ impact deepens in other parts of the state. In metro Atlanta, there are 1,240 cases of the virus in Fulton County, 706 in DeKalb, 588 in Cobb, 565 in Gwinnett, 293 in Clayton, 228 in Hall, 215 in Henry, 192 in Bartow, 183 in Carroll, 151 in Cherokee, 122 in Douglas, 86 in Rockdale, 67 in Newton and 66 in Paulding. The five major metro counties saw the biggest increases Wednesday with a total of 150 new cases and five additional deaths. In Fulton County alone, 55 cases and two deaths were reported since Tuesday night. » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia » MORE: Map tracks coronavirus globally in real time In Dougherty County, which has become a hot spot of the coronavirus crisis in Georgia, 13 more cases and five additional deaths were reported Wednesday. Columbia, Jenkins and Brooks are now among the 71 counties in Georgia with a death related to the virus.  Of the deaths statewide, about 56% had underlying conditions and 83% were age 60 or older, according to health officials. Significantly more men than women have died of COVID-19 in Georgia. Numbers have surged amid an increase in testing capacity, even as Georgia’s limited supply of testing kits are being rationed to those most at risk of infection. A partnership between universities and state agencies announced last week could improve testing capabilities, although it is unclear when tests might be made widely available to the public.  » AJC IN-DEPTH: Georgia’s COVID-19 deaths surge, and a rural county coroner reels Just over 5,000 more tests were conducted by commercial and state labs since Tuesday night, according to health officials. Additional growth is expected when the DPH releases its next update at 7 p.m. Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates. In other news: 
  • In the latest effort to limit the number of people on the Beltline during the coronavirus pandemic, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued new hourly guidelines for those using the popular walking path. On Tuesday, the usage guidelines were announced and immediately went into effect, according to an Atlanta Beltline press release. Between 6 and 10 a.m., the Eastside Trail will have prioritized access for older adults, people with disabilities and those with compromised health conditions, the release said. This is because volume on the trail is usually lightest during those times. MORE: Beltline urges recreational visitors to stay away to prevent crowds From 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., the Beltline will be reserved for those using the trail for exercise or transportation, officials said. After 2 p.m., the trail should only be used for work and emergency-related travel. Visitors are still required to stay at least six feet away from others, but it’s unclear how the city plans to enforce the new guidelines. RELATED: When stubborn individualism clashes with a stubborner virus This announcement comes the day after the Beltline extended its cancellation of all of events and programs through April 30, AJC.com previously reported. RELATED: Atlanta Beltline suspends meetings, activities The Beltline is one of the few trails to remain open in Atlanta during the statewide shelter in place order since it’s a primary means of transportation for many in the city. However, some members of Bottoms’ administration have shown an apparent desire to have the walking path closed to avoid further spread of COVID-19. MORE: Emails show high-ranking Fulton health officials want BeltLine closed Many parks and trails across the state were closed by local officials in attempts to promote social distancing.  Several cities and counties have kept them closed, despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s statewide shelter in place order overriding all local states of emergencies. The statewide order does not shut down parks and has led to some jurisdictions reopening parks, trails and beaches. ALSO: Kemp allies defend reopening Georgia beaches despite coastal criticism In other news:
  • UPDATE [7 p.m.]: The Georgia Department of Public Health recorded 19 new coronavirus deaths since noon, bringing the state’s toll to 348. The DPH also announced 338 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the state, which brings the number of cases in Georgia to 9,156. Of those, 1,899 patients are hospitalized, which is about 20.7% of all cases. Virus-related deaths have sharply risen this week, jumping from 208 Saturday evening to nearly 350 only three days later.  Of the 69 counties to report at least one death from COVID-19, Dougherty County remains the hardest hit with 56, followed by Fulton with 39 deaths and Cobb with 29. Dougherty also reported the most new deaths since noon with four, followed by Fulton and Gwinnett counties with three each. Nearly 33,800 tests have been conducted across the state, and about 27.1% of those returned positive results. At least 53.7% of those who died had a preexisting condition, and the DPH did not know whether 42.5% of victims had a preexisting condition. Only 13 victims were confirmed to not have another condition that could have contributed to their death aside from COVID-19. The youngest victim in Georgia was a 29-year-old Peach County woman, while the oldest was a 100-year-old woman from Greene County.  Only four counties — Evans, Glascock, Montgomery and Taliaferro — have not recorded their first case. The remaining 155 counties in Georgia have at least one, with Fulton County topping the list with 1,185 confirmed cases. Fulton also had the most new cases since noon with 61, followed by Dougherty with 34 and DeKalb with 28.  As of 7 p.m. Tuesday, there were 673 cases in DeKalb, 566 in Cobb, 540 in Gwinnett, 278 in Clayton, 215 in Hall, 208 in Henry, 191 in Bartow, 147 in Cherokee, 117 in Douglas, 99 in Forsyth, 86 in Rockdale, 81 in Fayette, 67 in Newton and 62 in Paulding. Patients between the ages of 18 and 59 make up the majority of cases at 59%, while those 60 and older make up 36%. The DPH does not release compiled data on how many patients have recovered. For the full update, click here. ORIGINAL STORY [noon]: For the second day in a row, the number of deaths from the coronavirus in Georgia has risen sharply. Thirty-five more Georgians have died since Monday night, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. Those deaths follow the 75 reported Monday to contribute to a statewide total of 329 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus. As of Tuesday, there are 8,818 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, an increase of more than 1,000, or about 17%, from the figures health officials reported the night before. Of those who have tested positive, 1,774 have been hospitalized since the coronavirus pandemic entered Georgia, officials said.  Additional growth in number of cases, deaths and hospitalizations is expected when the Department of Public Health releases its next update at 7 p.m. » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Health officials say the number of infections still does not adequately reflect the severity of the coronavirus crisis in Georgia, as a limited supply of tests remain rationed for the most vulnerable. A partnership between universities and state agencies announced last week could improve testing capabilities, although it is unclear when tests might be made widely available to the public.  Since Monday night, commercial and state laboratories have conducted 2,439 additional tests. » RELATED: Rapid virus tests come to Atlanta as testing slowly ramps up With increased testing and rapid spread of the virus, numbers are expected to surge in the coming weeks. One widely cited model by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts that Georgia’s daily death toll could peak April 21. By then, the model shows an additional 1,500 Georgians could die from COVID-19. » AJC IN-DEPTH: 75 more deaths in a day: Georgia enters devastating phase of outbreak » MORE: Flu hits rural Georgia hard, data shows. Will COVID-19 do the same? Hancock is now among the 155 counties in Georgia with a known case. Only four — Evans, Glascock, Montgomery and Taliaferro counties — have no confirmed cases as of Tuesday.   In metro Atlanta, there are 1,124 cases of the virus in Fulton County, 645 in DeKalb, 550 in Cobb, 525 in Gwinnett, 266 in Clayton, 196 in Hall, 194 in Henry, 187 in Bartow, 177 in Carroll, 144 in Cherokee, 111 in Douglas, 85 in Rockdale, 65 in Newton and 60 in Paulding. Dougherty County in southwest Georgia reported the largest increases Tuesday, with 217 new infections and eight more deaths for a total of 52. The county is home to Albany and has become a hot spot of the epidemic in Georgia. Neighboring counties Sumter, Terrell and Lee also saw a big spike in numbers Tuesday. Sumter and Terrell, which both have populations of about 30,000, saw cases increase by the dozens. Much smaller Lee County, which is home to about 8,500 people, kept pace. Officials in Lee reported 47 new infections and two more deaths since Monday night, bringing the county’s death toll to 15.  Coffee, Greene, Pierce, Tift and Brantley each reported their first death Tuesday. Thirty-six deaths, including four more since Monday night, have been reported in Fulton County alone. Of the deaths statewide, about 54% had underlying conditions and 82% were age 60 or older, according to health officials. More men than women have died of COVID-19 in Georgia. » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia » MORE: Map tracks coronavirus globally in real time Georgia remains under a statewide stay-at-home order that restricts all but essential activities. Other than trips to buy food, seek medical care, work in critical jobs or exercise outdoors, Georgians are urged to stay indoors to help curb new infections.  The order is in force through at least April 13. Gov. Brian Kemp also ordered the closure of all public schools through the end of the academic year. Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  In other news: 
  • Piedmont Atlanta Hospital’s new Marcus Tower will open four months early — on April 13 — to help treat the surge of coronavirus patients expected this month, the hospital announced Tuesday. The early opening will add three ICU and acute nursing units to Atlanta’s capacity. This will add a total of 132 additional beds, with 64 designated as critically-needed ICU beds. The hospital beds could be used for coronavirus patients and also patients who need health care for other illnesses, Piedmont said. The new beds will be spread over the tower’s sixth, seventh and eighth floors. “By opening this part of the tower early, we are increasing capacity at a critical time when our community needs it the most,” said Dr. Patrick Battey, CEO of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. “Getting these beds ready for patients who may need them during the COVID-19 outbreak was the right thing to do, and I am proud of the staff at Piedmont and our partners on the project who made it happen.” The 16-story tower was originally set to open Aug. 1. The healthcare system accelerated the work schedule and deliveries of equipment to make it possible to open early. “Piedmont exists to serve its communities and there is no greater way that we can serve them than by increasing our capacity with this state-of-the-art facility during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kevin Brown, president and CEO of Piedmont Healthcare.
  • UPDATE [7 p.m.]: Georgia recorded 65 more coronavirus deaths since noon, bringing the state’s toll to 294, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The state also added 244 new cases of COVID-19, which brings the number of cases to 7,558. Of those, 1,393 patients are hospitalized, which is about 18.4% of all cases. Dougherty County has suffered the most deaths with 44, followed by Fulton with 32 and Cobb with 26. Dougherty recorded the most new deaths since noon with 13, followed by Mitchell with nine and Terrell with 5. More than 31,000 tests have been conducted across the state, and about 24.2% have returned positive results. At least 55.8% of those who have died had preexisting conditions, and 239 were 60 or older, according to the latest update. The youngest victim in Georgia was a 29-year-old Peach County woman, while the oldest was a 98-year-old woman from Dougherty County. Atkinson and Echols counties recorded their first cases Monday afternoon, bringing the number of counties affected to 154. That leaves only five Georgia counties — Evans, Glascock, Hancock, Montgomery and Taliaferro — without confirmed cases. Fulton County saw the largest increase in new cases with 26, followed by DeKalb with 21, Coffee with 15 and Gwinnett with 12. Fulton is the only county to top 1,000 cases with 1,053. As of 7 p.m. Monday, there were 600 cases in DeKalb, 517 in Cobb, 455 in Gwinnett, 254 in Clayton, 182 in Bartow, 181 in Henry, 141 in Cherokee, 138 in Hall, 105 in Douglas, 85 in Forsyth, 82 in Rockdale, 74 in Fayette, 65 in Newton and 57 in Paulding.  Patients between the ages of 18 and 59 make up the majority of cases at 60%, while those 60 and older make up 35%. The DPH does not release compiled data on how many patients have recovered. For the full update, click here.  ORIGINAL STORY [noon]: In the span of one week, the number of Georgians who have died due to the new coronavirus has more than doubled, according to data from state health officials.  Authorities on Monday confirmed 10 more deaths due to COVID-19, bringing Georgia’s death toll to 229. Last Monday, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported 87 deaths caused by the novel virus.  The latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health shows 7,314 confirmed cases, an increase of about 8.4% from the 6,742 cases reported Sunday night.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Since Sunday night, commercial and state laboratories have conducted 3,442 new tests, making a total of 31,274 across the state. The health department data shows 23.4% have returned positive results.  Of those who have tested positive since the beginning of the outbreak, 1,332 are in hospitals, according to the health department.  Few parts of Georgia have gone unaffected by the virus, as 152 of the state’s 159 counties now report confirmed cases.  Fulton County surpassed 1,000 cases Monday, according to the health department. Fulton has 1,027 cases on record, more than any other county in the state and over 300 more than the county with the next largest number of cases. Dougherty County reports 716 cases in what has become the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in Georgia. The death toll in Dougherty stands at 31, according to the data. It remains the hardest hit county in Georgia. The county with the next highest number of deaths is Fulton with 28.  Elsewhere in metro Atlanta, there are 579 cases of the virus in DeKalb County, 515 in Cobb, 443 in Gwinnett, 244 in Clayton, 179 in Bartow, 178 in Henry, 163 in Carroll, 133 in Cherokee, 131 in Hall, 102 in Douglas, 80 in Rockdale, 60 in Newton and 54 in Paulding. Those numbers are predicted to grow in coming weeks as plans are put in place to increase daily testing capacity. Scientific projections suggest the state will see thousands of new cases and hundreds of additional deaths before the virus is contained, AJC.com previously reported.  Growing concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak led Gov. Brian Kemp to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order. Monday opens the first full week of the order, which went into effect at 6 p.m. Friday and will last through at least April 13.  » PHOTOS:  Metro Atlanta adjusts to shifts in daily life amid coronavirus crisis The order requires Georgians to remain in their homes for all but essential activities, which include buying food, seeking medical care, working in critical jobs or exercising outdoors. Kemp also ordered the closure of all public schools through the end of the academic year. » MORE: Kemp details Georgia’s statewide shelter-in-place order  For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. » RELATED: Coronavirus cases now reported at 58 Georgia senior care facilities » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia » MORE: Map tracks coronavirus globally in real time Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates. In other news: 
  • UPDATE [7 p.m.]: In the seven hours since its last report, the Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed an additional 95 cases of COVID-19, bringing the state’s total to 6,742. Health officials also reported another 8 deaths, meaning the total number of Georgians killed by the highly contagious disease now stands at 219. As of noon, there were 6,647 confirmed cases and 211 deaths.  Of Georgia’s overall cases, 1,296 patients remain hospitalized, a rate of 19.2%, according to the 7 p.m figures. That number is up from 1,283 confirmed hospitalizations Sunday afternoon.  Fulton County still has the most cases with 970, up from 962 earlier today. Dougherty County has the second most with 688, followed by DeKalb County with 549 and Cobb with 474, according to the latest data.  — Please return to AJC.com for updates.  ORIGINAL STORY [noon]: Georgians are still feeling the weight of the new coronavirus Sunday as the number of confirmed cases increased to 6,647 and the death toll rose to 211.  The Georgia Department of Public Health reports since Saturday 3 more Georgians have died due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel virus. The latest data released at noon shows 264 new cases since Saturday evening.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Of Georgia’s overall cases, 1,283 patients remain hospitalized, a rate of about 19%, according to the noon figures. That number is up from 1,266 confirmed hospitalizations Saturday evening. The rate of Georgia patients who have died of COVID-19 is about 3.1%.  The number of COVID-19 cases in the state has tripled in just over a week. Health officials announced that Georgia surpassed 2,000 cases on March 27. A statewide shelter-in-place mandate went into effect at 6 p.m. Friday in an effort to limit residents’ travel and curb the spread of the virus. The order requires Georgians to remain in their homes for all but essential activities, which include buying food, seeking medical care, working in critical jobs or exercising outdoors. » RELATED: Confusion surrounds Georgia’s coronavirus lockdown The number of cases across the state is expected to spike even more in coming weeks as plans are put in place to increase daily testing capacity. Projections suggest the state could see thousands of new cases and hundreds more deaths before the virus is contained. On Sunday, 27,832 tests had been conducted across the state with about 23.88% returning positive results.  » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia Fulton County has the most cases with 962, followed by Dougherty County with 686, DeKalb County with 543, and Cobb with 456, according to the latest data. Fulton reported 21 new cases since Saturday evening while hard-hit Dougherty County reported 50 more. The southwest Georgia county of about 90,000 has lost 30 residents to COVID-19, more than any other county in Georgia. MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany So far, the oldest patient to die in the state was a 96-year-old Bibb County woman while the youngest was a 29-year-old woman from Peach County, according to the health department.  For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals. 
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has expanded the state’s coronavirus task force once again, now adding a committee focused on community outreach.  The governor’s office announced the members of the new 16-person Community Outreach Committee Sunday. COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia Initially created in February before Georgia had a single confirmed case of the illness, the Governor’s Coronavirus Task Force panels were focused on addressing the disease’s impact on the economy, healthcare network, emergency preparedness and the needy, AJC.com previously reported. RELATED: Kemp expands Georgia’s coronavirus task force as pandemic spreads The creation of the new committee comes as the state continues to put measures into place to fight COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.  As of Sunday morning, the virus had sickened more than 6,000 Georgians and killed 200 more.  'Comprised of talented individuals from the public and private sectors, I am confident this committee will ensure that our state remains prepared in the fight against COVID-19,' Kemp said.  The members of the new committee are:   Bernice A. King, CEO of The King Center - Co-Chair  Leo Smith, Presidentof  Engaged Futures Group, LLC - Co-Chair  Santiago Marquez, President and CEO of Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce  Representative Calvin Smyre, Dean of the Georgia House of Representatives  Leona Barr-Davenport, President and CEO of Atlanta Business League  Nancy Flake Johnson, President and CEO of Urban League of Greater Atlanta  Reverend Tim McDonald III, Pastor of First Iconium Baptist Church - Moreland Avenue  Pastor Reggie Joiner, CEO and Founder of Orange  Tres Hamilton, CEO of Coastal Georgia Area Community Action Authority  Natalie Keng, Founder and CEO of Chinese Southern Belle, LLC  Jasmine Crowe, Founder and CEO of Goodr, Inc.  Dr. Wayne S. Morris - Internal Medicine/Geriatrics  Laura Mathis, Executive Director of Middle Georgia Regional Commission  Rodney D. Bullard, Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation  Jacob Vallo, Senior Director of Transit Oriented Development and Real Estate for MARTA  Sunny Patel, Operations Manager of the Office of the Governor In other news: