Georgia will be extending its public health state of emergency until May 13 as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The decision was announced this morning by Governor Brian Kemp, the state Senate's presiding officer and Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston in a joint press release. 

Kemp states, "This measure will allow us to continue to deploy resources to communities in need, lend support to frontline medical providers, and keep preparing as we brace for potential patient surge in our health-care facilities. 

"We deeply appreciate the hard work of Georgians who are sheltering in place, using social distancing, and helping us flatten the curve. We are in this fight together."

As of Tuesday, April 7, the Georgia Department Of Public Health has reported 9,156 positive cases (1,899 hospitalized) and 348 deaths. The majority of these cases were reported in Fulton County, the largest county in Atlanta. 

Kemp issued a shelter-in-place order last week, Thursday, April 2, after receiving pressure from Georgia residents. While the state of emergency is extended to May 13, the shelter-in-place one is scheduled to expire on April 13.

Duncan mentions in his statement, “We must continue our aggressive fight against COVID-19. By extending the public health state of emergency, we can ensure Georgians have access to every available state resource during this crisis."

Georgia locals — including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and government officials from neighboring states — have criticized Kemp for being too lenient with his preparations and measures to slow the spread of the disease.

While social distancing is encouraged and gatherings of any number are prohibited, beaches are still open, leading officials to denounce the decision.