Gov. Brian Kemp

Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered public schools closed through nearly the end of April.

ATLANTA — Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday a limit on gatherings of 10 or more people and a shelter-in-place order for “medically fragile” populations for two weeks to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Kemp’s executive order closes bars and nightclubs and bans gatherings of 10 or more people unless a six-foot distance can be maintained between patrons as of noon Tuesday.

The Department of Public Health will have the authority to forcibly shutdown businesses and nonprofits that don’t comply with the mandate.

“Medically fragile” populations including those living in long-term care facilities, chronic lung disease, are undergoing cancer treatment, have tested positive for coronavirus or who have been in close contact with those who have tested positive are required to stay inside.

“These measures are intended to ensure the health and safety of Georgians across our state. And I would ask for everyone's cooperation over the next two weeks,” Kemp said. “They will protect the medically fragile, mitigate potential exposure in public venues and allow the state to ramp up emergency preparedness efforts as cases increase in each region.”

The executive order will be in effect until April 6.

Kemp urged Georgians to hold each other accountable.

"I am calling all my fellow citizens to fight this virus, with everything you got," he said. "We are all part of this solution. If your friends, neighbors or local organizations are not complying, call them out — or report them to us."

Kemp also announced the move of state tax filing deadlines from April 15 to July 15.

Kemp faced mounting pressure in recent days to put Georgia on lockdown, but has been hesitant to use new powers granted to him through the declaration of public health emergency.

At least 37 other states have instituted restrictions on gatherings — nine ordering residents to stay home altogether.

Georgia House Democrats sent a letter Monday urging Kemp to issue a statewide shelter-in-place for the next 14 days.

“Every day of delay before uniform statewide restrictive measures are taken will lead to an earlier and higher peak of infected Georgians that will completely overwhelm our hospital system," the letter states.

But Kemp has repeatedly called a shutdown of bars, restaurants, gyms and other businesses an “overreach.”

During a press briefing March 19, Kemp said if the outbreak gets worse, he would take action.

“At this time I do not plan on forcing businesses too close,” he said. “If circumstances change, I will take the appropriate action. For now I believe that most Georgians are heeding advice of health officials and medical providers.”

The same day, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced an executive order that closed all in-person dining in restaurants as well as bars, nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters, bowling alleys and other recreational businesses within city limits.

“The fate of cities across the globe will be upon (us) soon if we do not follow recommendations on ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus,” she said in a tweet.

Other major Georgia cities have issued similar orders.

Columbus and Augusta put restrictions on local gatherings through early April, closing restaurants except for takeout services. In Savannah, all bars and nightclubs that don’t serve food are closed as well as gyms and entertainment venues.

A petition circulating on social media calling for Kemp to issue a shelter-in-place order garnered more than 24,000 signatures in four days.

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