Public schools and colleges in Georgia have been closed until March 31 due to coronavirus outbreak

Citing newly issued federal guidance regarding the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Brian Kemp has ordered all K-12 public schools in Georgia to close, starting Wednesday.

Kemp signed an executive order Monday closing the schools through March 31.

“This measure is critical to reducing local transmission in communities across our state, and I ask Georgians to continue to follow best practices – washing their hands regularly, isolating the elderly and chronically ill, and avoiding large events if possible – in the days and weeks ahead,” Kemp said in a statement.

As of Monday afternoon, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported 121 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including one death.

COVID-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus that orginiated in China in December. The disease has caused at least 80 deaths in the U.S. so far. COVID-19 symptoms appear within two to 14 days after exposure and can include fever, cough, runny nose and difficulty breathing.

Kemp’s closing of schools Monday follows his Saturday declaration of the state’s first-ever public health emergency. The Georgia General Assembly also has suspended its legislation session, and the March 24 presidential primary has been moved to May.

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